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THE 

CONVERSION 

of 

MARIE -ALPHONSE PATISBOOTE: 

I 

ORIGINAL NARRATIVE OP 

BARON THEODORE DE BUSSE&RES ; 

FOLLOWED BY A LETTER 

PROM MR. RATISBONNE TO REV. MR. DUFRICHE-DESGENETTES, 

CURE OF NOTRE-DAME DES VICTORIES AT PARIS. 

EDITED BY THE REV. W. LOCKHART, 

OP THE ORDER OP CHARITY. 




NEW YORK: 

T . -W . STBONG, 

Late EDWARD DUNIGAN & BROTHER, 

Catholic Publishing House, 

599 BROADWAY. 



ter 



While I affirm that all the facts contained in this narrative are 
related with rigorous exactness, and with the sincerest truth, 
I declare, in compliance with the decree of Urhan VIII. that I 
believe them as facts resting simply on human testimony, and on 
motives of human reason alone. 

THE BAEON DE BUSSIERES. 

Rome, nth February, 1842. 



APR 25 1955 



PREFACE. 



"We have given in this volume a literal translation 
of the original accounts of the conversion of M. 
Alphonse Ratisbonne. The attompt to construct 
an independent narrative would be presumptuous 
in itself, and would lose the simple force and fresh- 
ness of these genuine documents. Those who 
know the scrupulous and almost suspicious care 
with which the pretensions of any alleged miracle 
are tested at Rome, will feel the value of tho de- 
cree of the Cardinal- Vicar which is prefixed. Bar- 
on de Bussieres prefaced his first edition with a 
declaration, that he claimed for his narrative only 
that measure of assent which may be granted to 
any ordinary statement, resting on human evi- 
dence alone ; this decree has raised the conver- 
sion of Mr. Ratisbonne to the position of an ac- 
credited miracle. 

It is both sad and strange to observe the air of 
superb disdain with which miracles such as this are 
set aside, even by those who seem least removed 
from the Church, and who profess to accept the 
miracles of Holy Scripture on their own evidence, 



4 PKEFACE. 

and to be familiar with the laws of moral reason- 
ing. 

And yet, surely, those who reject this state- 
ment as an imposture or a delusion, should feel 
bound to show wherein it lacks the criteria of a 
true miracle. We may assume that they will be 
unwilling to affirm that the power of working 
miracles was restrained within the limits of the 
apostolic age ; they know that this hypothesis is 
fatal to historical Christianity, and belies the 
promise of its inspired records. Nor will they 
say that a miracle is so improbable a thing in the 
kingdom of God that no amount of testimony 
can render it credible ; they know well, that on 
this view, they could hardly rescue the miracles 
of the Gospels from the hands of unbelievers. 

They must rest their rejection on one of these 
grounds : they either regard the evidence for this 
particular miracle as insufficient or untrustworthy ; 
or they shrink from doctrines and practices which 
seem to them imbedded in it, or presupposed by it. 

Yet they have learnt from a great au- 
thority amongst themselves,* that objections 
to any revelation from God, as distin- 
guished from objections to its evidence, are 
frivolous. It is not competent to them to set 
aside credible testimony to a miracle, simply 
because that miracle carries with it theologi- 
* Butler's Analogy, Part II. cli. iii. 



PREFACE O 

cal consequences which they deem at variance 
with the general scheme of religion. Nor would 
they thus reserve any right to blame the Jews for 
rejecting our Lord's miracles. The only question 
which they can logically entertain is the evidence 
for this particular miracle — the apparition of the 
Blessed Virgin to Alphonse Ratisbonne in the 
church of St. Andrea at Rome. 

And if we weigh the character of the witness 
and his competency ; the improbability of his be- 
ing deceived or wishing to deceive ; the simple 
fact of the entire change wrought upon him in a 
moment, in the conversion of his heart and the il- 
lumination of his mind; the consequences of his 
testimony to himself; and then, the many years 
which have tested his sincerity and his stability ; — 
if we weigh all these circumstances, we may ask 
whether it is possible to decline to receive his tes- 
timony on any grounds which would not excuse 
the Jews that dwelt at Damascus for refusing to 
credit the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, and Fes- 
tus for deeming him mad. We repeat, that those 
who feel that there is no antecedent improba- 
bility in the occurrence of miracles, that the later 
miracles cannot be discredited on a priori grounds 
without shiking the credit of those of the Gos- 
pels, are bound to justify their rejection of this 
miracle by impeaching its evidence. This is the 
only issue which a Christian can properly raise; 
and that testimony cannot be trivial or in- 



6 PREFACE. 

different which the Church has stamped with the 
seal of its acceptance. 

But here we would invite attention to some 
weighty and suggestive remarks of Cardinal Wise- 
man, in his review of a pamphlet entitled A Voice 
from Borne.* 

"In proof that the Blessed Virgin is worshipped as the 
Mother of mercies, temporal and spiritual, the author before 
us appeals to the Baron de Bussieres' account of M. Ratis- 
bonne's conversion from Judaism, ' which he distinctly attri- 
butes to the immediate operation of the Virgin Mary ; for ho 
relates, that it was effected by her actual appearance to him.' 
Now, what is meant to be granted, and what is meant to be 
doubted here, we do not know. We suppose that no one 
doubts that M. Ratisbonne, from a Jew, did become a Catho- 
lic, and has become a religious ; having abandoned home and 
friends, and given up a long-cherished alliance. Any one 
might as well deny that Sir R. Peel is prime minister. That 
he went into the church of St. Andrew a Jew, and came out 
a Christian, is attested upon evidence as certain as any fact 
can well be — that of trustworthy and honest men, who saw 
him and spoke with him before and after. For the change 
something must account. That it was a true conversion from 
Judaism to Christianity, with great temporal sacrifice;}, is 
clear ; and such a conversion must have been the work of di- 
vine grace. How communicated is the question. The only 
witness can be the convert. He tells us that it was through 
an apparition of the Mother of God, who instructed him in the 
mysteries of our holy religion. Are we to believe that a per- 
son is chosen by the Divine Goodness for an object of a most 

» Dublin Review, Dec. 1843. Cardinal Wiseman's Essays, vol. i 560, 



PREFACE. 7 

singular act of grace, at the moment that he devises and tells 
an abominable falsehood, to rob Him of the glory of it, and 
give it to another, by feigning a vision of the Blessed Virgin ? 
What does the author of the Voice mean to throw doubt on? 
on the apparition, as for such a purpose impossible ? or on the 
consequences drawn from it ? Surely not on the latter ; for if 
the vision was true, it was right to consider the blessed Mother 
of God, not as the source, but as the channel, of a gfeai 
'spiritual mercy.' 

*' Jx he wish to insinuate that it would be derogatory to 
God*s honour, or incompatible with His revealed doctrines, to 
believe such a mode of communicating grace and religious 
instruction possible, and consequently, that th? whole must be 
a figment or a delusion, we will, in answer, relate another 
similar story, in which not a Jew, but a bishop, was the 
party ; and we will premise that we have it on the best au- 
thority. 

" The person to whom we allude was a young man of sin- 
gular piety and virtue. Left young an orphan, he devoted his 
youth to study in a celebrated university. There his assi- 
duity in left ruing was surpassed only by the purity and inno- 
cence of his life, which stood the test of severe trials, and es- 
caped the snares laid for him by profligate companions, jealous 
of ids virtue. Having made himself master of all profane 
learning, he entered on a course of sacred studies, under the 
most celebrated professor of the day, and soon made consider- 
able progress. He was, however, while yet young, put into 
orders, and even named bishop, before he considered himself 
well enough grounded in theological knowledge ; though 
probably his humility led him to exaggerate his deficiencies. 
He found himself quite unequal to the task of preaching the 
Divine Word ; and on the eve of his first undertaking this 
duty, he lay sleepless on his bed, in agitation and anxiety. 
Suddenly he saw before him a venerable figure of an old 



8 PREFACE. 

man, whose countenance, attitude, and garb, bespoke great 
dignity, but who, at the same time, appeared most gracious 
and affable. Terrified at this appearance, he leaped from his 
couch, and respectfully asked who he was, and for what pur- 
pose he had come. The old man replied, in a gentle voice, 
that he had come to calm his doubts and solve his difficulties. 
This declaration soothed his fears, and made him look towards 
his visitor with a mixture of joy and awe ; when he perceived, 
that by steadily pointing with his hand towards the other side 
of the apartment, he seemed to wish to turn his attention in 
that direction. Thither he consequently turned his eyes, and 
there he beheld a lady of peerless majesty, and of more than 
human beauty, so resplendent that his eyes could not bear the 
brightness of the vision, but he must needs bend them and his 
countenance down, in reverential awe. Thus he listened t<? 
the conversation of these two heavenly beings, which fully 
instructed him on the subjects whereon he felt anxious, and 
at the same time informed him who his gracious visitors were. 
For the lady, addressing the other by the name of the Evan- 
gelist John, requested him to instruct the youth in the mys- 
tery of heavenly piety ; and he replied, ' that he was ready to 
do even this, to please the Mother of his Lord, seeing that she 
desired it.' And accordingly he did so. 

M Such is our counterpart to the narrative objected to by 
our author, respecting M. llatisbonne's conversion. Now, be- 
fore giving the name of our authority for this wonderful his- 
tory, or of the person to whom it refers, we will only beg our 
reader, if not sufficiently versed in ecclesiastical biography, at 
once to answer both points, to say to what Church or religion 
he considers either the writer or the subject of this anecdote 
belongs. Could he believe us, if we told him that it hap- 
pened to Bishop Ken, or Bishop Wilson, or Archbishop Laud ; 
or that we had transcribed it, as gravely told by some Angli- 
can clergyman in a life of any of them ? We are sure he 



PREFACE. 9 

could not. The idea of a Protestant Bishop learning his 
faith from u vision of the Blessed Virgin, would be deemed re- 
pugnant to every principle and every feeling of the religion. 
But were we to tell the reader that the bishop spoken of was 
St. Alphonsus Liguori, or even St. Charles, and the narrator 
an Italian monk or priest, he would at once allow, that such 
an accnunt, from such a pen, concerning such a person, was 
perfectly consistent with the principles of both ; and though, if 
a Protestant, he might declare that he did not believe the 
story, he would acknowledge that it did not surprise him to 
find it in such a place. It must, then, be a Catholic, and not 
a Protestant, who thought or said he saw such a vision ; and 
it must be a Catholic, and not a Protestant, who has recorded 
it, as believing it. And so it was. The bishop who thus 
learnt his faith was St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, only little 
more than two hundred years after Christ ; and the recorder 
of the vision is the brother of the great St. Basil, St. Gregory, 
Bishop of Nyssa. This would have been a nice anecdote for 
our ancient note-taker upon the doctrines of Catholics." 

The real reason why miracles such as this are 
rejected with scorn, or passed by with indifference, 
is not their antecedent improbability nor the inade- 
quacy of their evidence ; it is that they imply and 
render sensible the position and power of the blessed 
Mother of God. The Protestant cannot endure 
that glad and graceful vision of the Mother of Di- 
vine Grrace — radios evibrans misericordice suce — 
as Catholic piety delights to image her. It is an 
gffence to him. It is something so intolerable to 
him, that, in his antipathy, he forgets all canons of 
moral reasoning; his conceptions and definitions 



10 PREFACE. 

become confused, and he allows this consoling vision 
to neutralise the positive evidence, that the Church 
which discloses it is alone of God. 

And yet waving in thought what we can never 
forget in fact, that clear voice of the Church which 
is the Catholic's warrant of faith, why should it be 
thought a thing so violently incredible that the 
Mother of God should occupy the position, and ex- 
ercise the powers, ascribed to her by the Church V 
Surely there can be no natural and necessary im- 
probability in that which East and West combine to 
affirm. Except in the fancies of a modern and very 
small section of the nominally Christian world, there 
has never been any consciousness of an incompati- 
bility between our assigned office and the Gospel. 
Her glories and prerogatives, as Mother of Chris- 
tians and a special channel of grace, have not shocked 
the wisest and the holiest sons of the Church. 

Nor can those who rightly ascribe so tremen- 
dous an influence to Eve over the destinies of our 
race, rightfully shrink from the range of power at- 
tributed by the Church to the advocate and counter- 
part of Eve. It cannot, surely, be a gratuitous 
fancy to see in the effects of the unbelief and dis- 
obedience of the mother of all living, in the order of 
nature, a hint and a measure, though not a limit, of 
the efficacy of the faith and obedience of the mother 
of all living, in the order of grace. 

But let us observe here, that the miraculous 



PREFACE. 11 

element in the conversion narrated in this volume 
is simply the apparition of the blessed Mother of 
God, and not her intercessory power. The Catholic 
regards that power as a supernatural fact, a law of 
the spiritual kingdom, one of the powers of the 
ivorid to come. He needs no miracle to teach him 
that. No number or splendour of miracles could 
increase his faith in that. They would be but veri- 
fications to sense of what he knows already, abso- 
lutely and infallibly, by the teaching of the Church ; 
what he sees already, by the deep intuition of faith. 
Such a miracle as this might excite his faith, but 
could not be its ground or warrant. He sees tho 
office and the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin in- 
volved in the fact of the Incarnation. Mary, of 
whom icas born Jesus — he needs no more. Mary, 
Mother of God; Mary, bequeathed to us as our 
mother from the Cros3 : the Divine Maternity in- 
cludes and implies all. Her glories and her mighty 
powers are only its natural consequences, and its 
fitting adornment. 

Is he reminded of the absence of express com- 
mand to seek her intercession ? He feels that he 
has the command of that same Spirit by whose in- 
gpiration Scripture was written. For the Church 
can ever say, it hath thus seemed good to the Holy 
Ghost and to us. He would remind the objector, 
that the relation in which the Mother of God stands 
to us being known, the duty of religious regard to 



12 PREFACE. 

her, on Bishop Butler's principles, arises out of that 
relation itself, and is an obligation of reason, bind- 
ing as soon as that relation is known. It is our 
duty as well as our privilege to seek the interces- 
sion of those who have power with God ; and he 
would call on the objector to produce some prohibi- 
tion of so natural an exercise of that privilege. 
And, indeed, Catholics feel that this objection does 
strike at intercessory prayer in general. There is", 
we know, an intercession, vast and mighty, which 
rests upon and carries out, if we may so speak, the 
great mediation of the Word made flesh ; and that 
mediation is a legitimate object of desire, and con- 
sequently of petition, to every Christian man. It 
is for the objector to produce a command in limita- 
tion of this our right, in the covenant of grace. 

But then, to invoke the Blessed Mother, to im- 
agine that she can hear our cry and turn on us her 
pitying eyes — it is this which is deemed so absurd 
as to need no refutation. As if the charge of ab- 
surdity did not recoil on those who, with gros3 
conceptions, impose on the world unseen the laws 
of space and time and the like, which rule this 
world that is seen; who dare to limit the range of 
the perceptions of the blessed by the laws of man's 
bodily senses, senses which are but the spirit's 
points of contact with the material world. Surely, 
it is both shallow and unscientific to reason from the 
senses of this body of our lowness, to the powers 



PREFACE. 13 

and perceptions of the saints who reign with Christ. 
Be it so, that we know not precisely how the Saints 
hear our invocations. It is enough, to turn the 
force of this objection drawn from our ignorance, 
to say that we can conceive many ways in which 
they may know the desires of our hearts. It is 
quite enough for the Catholic to say : what if 

A sea before 
The throne is spread ; its pure still glass 
Pictures all earth-scenes as they pass. 

We, on its shore, 
Share, in the bosom of our rest, 
God's knowledge, and are blest. 

Still there is a jealousy, honourable in its mo- 
tive, most unwise in its conclusions, that our re- 
course to the Blessed Mother of Christians does in 
some way interfere with the simplicity of our trust 
in Jesus. It is impossible for those who are with- 
out, to understand the practical and ever-present 
safeguards of the Catholic from all error, from all 
excess. Tliey cannot know, for instance, the effect 
of the Mass in regulating all his language and 
thoughts ; nor how impossible it is that this per- 
ception of the greatness of the powers which God 
does communicate to the creature, should lessen the 
greatness, or dim the glory of those which arc in- 
communicable. Surely it should suffice to affirm that 
the sole Mediatorship of the Incarnate Son of Cod 
2 



14 PREFACE. 

is the very condition of all Catholic theology and 
practice. Like the weakness of man an 1 the might 
of grace, it is a law of the spiritual order, every 
where felt, every where presupposed, every where 
taken for granted, underlying evory statement, 
pointing every prayer. It is not so much a part of 
the Gospel, as the Gospel itself. But the interces- 
sion of the Blessed Virgin and of the Saints cannot 
be so stated as to clash with this oneness of media- 
tion. They cannot ask otherwise than in accord- 
ance with His will, nor apart from His great 
pleading. It is upon that golden altar, which is be- 
fore the throne of God, that the prayers of all saints 
are offered, in St. John's vision. Now this is ever 
present to the Catholic. However largely he may 
ask of our Blessed Mother — and he does ask largely 
— the principle of his asking and the law of its in- 
terpretation are, Tu damper precata dulcisona — 
by thy sweet prevailing prayer. However wide 
and, to human notions unlimited, the range of 
power he ascribes to the Mother of God, it abides 
still an omnipotentia supplex, as St. Bernard beau- 
tifully says. It cannot be otherwise to him. He 
is never even tempted to confound the creatures 
with the Creator, to mistake the streams for the 
source. 

But, indeed, it is not the illumination of tho 
mind that is needed to bring back the strayed sheep 
to the fold ; it is the attraction of the heart and 



PREFACE. 



15 



the bending of the will, and this is the work of God 
alone. Would those who doubt and object but 
'meditate awhile on the solitary prerogative of Mary, 
on her proximity to the flesh of Jesus, and on the 
intensity of the mutual love that must bind to- 
gether that Son and that Mother; would they but 
try to look at her revealed position from the 
Church's point of view, with all those limitations 
and checks and safeguards of which they can form 
no notion ; would they do this, not with the hard 
cold gaze of the intellect, but with a loving docile 
heart ; the objections which now hang like clouds 
before their soul's eye would melt away of them- 
selves and leave no trace. To such a one we would 
say, in all affection, if you must reason ere you be- 
lieve, remember the laws which control all moral 
reasoning ; remember that no number of even irre- 
ducible objections are of weight against that which 
rests upon direct and positive evidence ; remember 
that though this evidence is " liable to objections, 
and may be run up into difficulties, it is not lost in 
these difficulties or destroyed by these objections ; " * 
remember that those who, like St. Bernard, St. An- 
selm, St. Bonaventura, St. Alphonsus, have been 
most devout to Mary, have spoken of Jesus with 
the tongues of angels rather than of men; and 
pray — ora fortiter et fideliter. And as you gaze, 

* Butler's Analogy, Part II. chap. vi. 



16 PREFACE. 

you will see how the Mother of Jesus is the mother 
of His mystical body likemse-^Mater membrorum 
Ejv.s, as St. Augustine speaks. As you fathom the 
import of the words, Behold the handmaid of the 
Lord, you will come to feel that it is a mighty plea 
and an availing, to say, Behold, Lord, how that 1 
am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid ; 
and you will soon be enabled to continue the 
words of the psalm, Thou hast broken my bonds 
asunder. 

We owe an apology to our Catholic readers for the 
length to which these remarks have extended. You 
can hardly grasp the reality of the difficulty which 
Protestants feel in the intercession of the Blessed 
Virgin and of the Saints.. You can scarcely believe 
that men, believing the mystery of the Incarnation, 
can really confound things so accordant indeed, yet 
so distinct, as the affiance of a Christian in Christ, 
and his recourse to the prayers of all saints, with- 
out intellectual weakness or moral perversity. To 
you the miracle related here is, if I may so speak, 
quite natural and in keeping; wonderful indeed, 
but still what you are prepared to expect from the 
Mother of mercy. 

To you all Scripture speaks of her, in type and 
figure, in prophecy and promise. To you the In- 
carnation is unintelligible apart from her, and doc- 
trine heterodox or unmeaning which makes no 
mention of her. You know that as you have loved 



PREFACE. 



17 



Jesus more, you have felt for her wliom He loved 
best on earth, whom He cannot but delight to honour 
in heaven — a truer, deeper, more loyal, and more 
trustful love; and that as your devotion to the 
Mother of God has gathered strength, you have 
known and loved Jesus with a less reserved and 
less reserving love. You know and feel that God 
has indeed done great things unto her ; but it ha3 
never occurred to you that He has thereby dimmed 
the glory of His name. You have rather said with 
her— -et sanctum nomen Ejus. 

This narrative is of conversion, of Mary's tender 
pity towards those who know her not. How can we 
better express our thankfulness for this instance of 
her compassion than by praying for those to whom 
that very compassion is an offence and a hindrance? 
We know, by manifold experience — we have heard 
ivith our ears, and our fathers have declared it 
to us — the reality, the range, and the patience of 
that compassion. Let us pray for those who, from 
amidst their gathering gloom, are casting wistful, 
timid looks towards the one unwavering light, that 
God's grace may still lead them on, and gently clear : 
their way through their thorny objections, until it. 

brings them under Mary's smile 
And Peter's royal feet. 



18 



PREFACE. 



Decree verifying and accrediting the Miraculous 
Conversion of Marie- Alphonse Katisbonne. 



In /he name of God. Amen. 

In the year of our Lord and 
Saviour Jesus Christ one 
thousand eight hundred and 
forty-two, heing the fifteenth 
of the Roman Indiction, and 
the twelfth year of the Ponti- 
ficate of our Holy Father Pope 
Gregory XVI., and on the 
third day of June. 

In the presence of the Very 
Eminent and Reverend Con- 
stantine Cardinal Patrizi, Vi- 
car-General of onr Holy Fa- 
ther the Pope, Ordinary Judge 
of the Roman Court .... 
appeared the Very Reverend 
Francis Anivitti, Proctor-Fis- 
cal of the tribunal of the Vi- 
cariate, who had been spe- 
cially deputed by the Very 
Eminent and Reverend the 
Cardinal-Vicar, to make in- 
quiry and to examine wit- 
nesses in regard of the truth 
and reality of the wonderful 
conversion from Judaism to 
the Catholic Religion, grant- 
ed, through the intercession 
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to 
Alphonse Ratisbonne, a native 
of Strasburg, twenty-eight 
years of age, and now present 
in this city : the which Proc- 
tor declares that he applied 
himself to the inquiry intrust- 



In Dei Nomine. Amen. 

Anno a salutifera D. N. J. C. 
Nativitate milles. octogentes. 
quadragesimo secundo, Indict. 
Rom. XV., Pontificatus autem 
sanctissimi D. N. PP. Grego- 
rii XVI. ann. XII. die vero 
tertiti Junii. 



Coram Eminentissimo ae 
Reverendissimo Constantino 
Card. Patrizi, sanctissimi D. 
N. PP., in alma urbe Vicario- 
Generali, Romanseqne curice 
ejusque districtus Judice Ordi- 

nario comparuit Re- 

verendissimus D. Franciscus 
Anivitti, Promotor Fiscalis 
tribunals Vicariatus, ab eo- 
dem Eminentissimo ac Reve- 
rendissimo D. Card. Vicario 
specialiter delegatus, ad effec- 
tum inquirendi et examinandi 
testes super veritate et rele- 
vantia mirabilis conversionis 
ab Hebraismo ad Catholicam 
religionem, quam, interce- 
dente B. V. Maria, obtinuit 
Alphonsus-Maria Ratisbonne, 
Strasburgensis, anno viginti 
octo, in urbe proesens ; dixit- 
que muneri sibi demandato, 
alacri . libentique animo sus- 
cepto, qua potuit sedulitate ac 
diligentia satisfacere studuisse, 



PREFACE. 



19 



ed to him with the utmost 
care and diligence, and with 
a ready and willing mind. 
He declares further, that he 
has submitted the witnesses, 
to the number of nine, to a 
formal examination, and that 
they all display a marvellous 
agreement in their account of 
the alleged fact, and of its 
consequences and results. 
Whereupon he declared that, 
in his judgment, nothing was 
wanting in the characteristics 
of a true miracle ; but that, 
nevertheless, he referred the 
decision of the question to his 
Eminence, and besought him 
to issue a definitive decree, as 
it might seem to him expe- 
dient in the Lord, after a full 
examination of the acts and 
documents laid before him. 

Whereupon the Very Em- 
inent and Reverend Cardinal- 
Vicar, having received the 
report, and read the questions 
proposed to the witnesses, to- 
gether with their answers; 
and after mature and careful 
consideration of the same, 
after having also taken the 
advice and judgment of theo- 
logians and other holy men, 
in the form required by the 
Council of Trent, Session 25, 
de incocatime, &o, pronounced 
and declared definitively, that 
he affirmed the reality and 
truth of the miracle wrought 
by God, at the intercession of. 
the Blessed Virgin Mary, in 



subjiciendo formali examini 
numero novem testes, qui, 
omnes ad fiscalia interrogato- 
riarespondentes, ingenua enar- 
ratione, in iis quse ad substan- 
tiam facti et mira bills eventus 
extrema pertinent, mire con- 
cordant. Quamobrem sil)i vi- 
sum esse asseruit, nihil ad ra- 
tionem veri miraculi ulterius 
posse desidcrari. Rem tmnen 
omnem definiendam remisit 
Eminently sua? Reverendissi- 
mse, quse, visis et examinatis 
actis, examinibus et docu- 
mentis, definitivum decreturn 
prout in. Domino expedire ei 
vidcbitur, interponere digna- 
bitur. 



Et tunc Eminentissimus ac 
Reverendissimus D. Card, in 
urbe Vicarius, audita rela- 
tione, viso processu, visis tes- 
tium examinibus, juribus, ac 
documentis, iis sedulo matu- 
reque consideratis, consulta- 
tionibus etiam requisitis theo- 
logorum aliorumque piorum 
virorum, juxta formain Con- 
cilii Tr'identini, Sess. 25, de 
invocatione, veneratione, et 
reliquiis sanctorum, ac sacris 
imaginibus, dixit, pronuutia- 
vit, et definitive declaravit, 
plene constare de vero insigni- 
que miraculo, a D. 0. M. in- 
tercedente B. Maria Virgine, 
patralo, videlicet imtautaneae 



20 



PREFACE. 



the instantaneous and perfect 
conversion from Judaism of 
Alphonse Ratisbonne afore- 
said. And, inasmuch as it is 
honourable to confess and re- 
veal the icorks of God, his Em- 
inence is pleased to permit 
that this narrative be printed 
aud published, and held as 
authentic, for the glory of 
God, and for the increasing 
the devotion of all true Chris- 
tians to the Blessed Virgin 
Mary. 

Given at the palace of the 
aforesaid Veiy Eminent and 
Reverend Cardinal- Vicar and 
Ordinary Judge, on the day, 
month, and year aforesaid. 

C. Card. Vicar. 
Cam. Diamilla, Notary, 
Joseph, Chancellor. 
Tarxassi, Secretary. 

A true copy. 
Hace of the seal 



perfect£eque conversions A1- 
phonsi-Maria3 Ratisbonne ab 
Hebraismo. Et quoniam ope- 
ra Dei relevare et confiteri 
honorificum est (Tob. xii. 7), 
ideo ad majorem Dei gloriam, 
et ad augendam dcvotionem 
Christi fidelium erga B. Vir- 
ginem Mariam, benigne in 
Deo concessit, at prajfati in- 
signis miraculi relatio publicis 
typis tradi, impressaque evul- 
gari possit, et valeat. 

Datum ex sedibus ejusdem 
Eminentissimi D. Cardinalis, 
urbis Vicarii et Judicis Ordi- 
narii, die, mense et anno qui- 
bus supra. 

C. Cardix., Vicarius 
Cam. Diamilla, Not.Deput. 
Joseph, Can. 
Tarnassi, Sec. 

Concordat cum originali. 
Loco nigmim. 




Et omnis plebs, vt vtdk, 
dedit laudem Deo? 



He who made use of a little clay from the 
way-side to open to the light of heaven the eyes 
of him that had been born blind, permitted 
me to be the chief witness of an event of 
which human reason alone can render no ade- 
quate account. The fact I am about to relate 
is beyond dispute. I am to speak of what I 
saw with my own eyes — of what a multitude 
of competent and trustworthy witnesses con- 
firm — a man, in full possession of all his 
senses and faculties, entered a church an obsti- 
nate Jew; and, by one of those swift flashes 
of grace which laid Saul prostrate at the gates 
of Damascus, he came forth, ten minutes after- 
wards, a Catholic in heart and in will. 

Towards the close of the autumn of 1841, 



22 THE CONVERSION OF 

a young man, connected with a distinguished 
family at Strasburg, arrived at Naples. He 
was on his way to the East, in quest of health 
and pleasure : yet it was not without regret 
that he had quitted his native city ; for he left 
behind him a fair and gentle girl whom he 
loved with tender affection, and in whom his 
heart had stored up its rich treasure of hope. 
She was his own niece ; but mutual affection, 
no less than family reasons, had determined 
their union. 

Alphonse Katisbonne was a Jew ; he was 
destined, to all appearance, to a brilliant posi- 
tion in the world, and had resolved to devote 
himself to the great work of the regeneration of 
his co-religionists. His thoughts and aspira- 
tions all revolved around this one high 
purpose, and his wrath kindled at every thing 
that reminded him of the curse that rests 
upon the descendants of Jacob. Fifteen years 
before the time of which I am speaking, and 
while he was yet a child, his heart had been 
wounded in one of its most sensitive affections. 
Theodore Katisbonne, his brother, became a 
Catholic, and received holy orders. Time had 
been powerless to close this wound ; his hatred 
deepened year by year, and he studiously fo- 
mented the deadly resentment of his family. 

The blue sky of Naples could not make 
him forget the East, the object of his journey, 
nor the joys that awaited him on his return. 
But a few months remained, and Sicily, Malta, 



MAKIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 23 

and Constantinople were to be visited. The 
summer of 1842 was to restore him to his 
home, and to witness a union which would fix 
his position in life, and assure his perfect hap- 
piness : it was time to be going. So he went 
out one morning to take his place in the 
steamer for Palermo. On his way it struck 
him that he had not seen Rome ; that if he re- 
turned to Strasburg, and married, and became 
involved in the cares of business, there was 
but little likelihood of his ever revisiting 
Italy ; and under the influence of this sudden 
thought he turned aside into the stage office 
took his place, and within three days found 
himself in Eome. 

His stay was to be very short. His plans 
were all made ; in a fortnight he would return 
to Naples. It was all in vain that the Eternal 
City displayed her wonders before him, he 
could not spare a day more ; the East and his 
bride awaited him. So he set to work like a 
true tourist; visited ruins, churches, and gal- 
leries, and crowded his memory with a con- 
fused medley of impressions. He was eager 
to have done with this city, to which he had 
been drawn hj an unaccountable fascination 
rather than by an intelligent curiosity. 

And now he has finished his rounds. He 
starts for Naples to-morrow ; but he must pay 
a farewell visit to an old friend. Gustave 
de Bnssieres had been his schoolfellow; and 
they had kept up their early friendship, in 



24 THE CONVERSION OF 

spite of the antagonism of their religious opin- 
ions. My brother Gustave is a very zealous 
Protestant, of the sect of the Pietists. He 
had made sundry attempts to gain over the 
young Israelite ; but their discussions usually 
wound up with two expressions, which suffi- 
ciently indicate the position and temper of the 
disputants : Fanatical ProtestanU shouted the 
one ; Callous Jeiv, retorted the other. 

Eatisbonne did not find my brother at 
home, and so he came on to me. But he had 
resolved not to come in; he would merely 
leave a farewell card. Chance, or rather 
Providence, ordered it so that his knock was 
answered by an Italian servant, who mistook 
his meaning, and introduced him, to his great 
annoyance, into the drawing-room. 

We had met but once, at. my brother's, 
and notwithstanding all my efforts, I had 
failed to obtain from Eatisbonne any thing 
beyond the cold civility of a well-bred man. 
However, he was Gustave's friend ; he was 
the brother of my own dear friend, the Abbe 
Eatisbonne ; and so I received him cordially, 
talked to him of the wonders around him, and 
gradually elicited his impressions of Eome. 

" A rather odd thing happened to me the 
other day," said he, in passing ; " while I was 
looking over the church of Aracceli on the 
Capitol, I felt myself suddenly seized with an 
emotion for which I could assign no cause. 
The valet de place, seeing my agitation, asked 



MAEIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 25 

rae what was the matter, and whether I would 
go out into the open air ; adding, that he had 
often seen strangers similarly affected." 

While Ratisbonne was telling me this, I 
suppose that my glistening eyes seemed to 
say to him, You will be a Catholic / for lie 
went on to say, with a marked intention, that 
this emotion was not at all specifically Chris- 
tian, but purely religious, in the most general 
sense of the word. u Besides," he continued, 
" as I came down from the Capitol a melan- 
choly spectacle rekindled all my hatred of 
Catholicism : I passed through the Ghetto ; 
and as I beheld the misery and the degra- 
dation of the Jews, I said to myself that, after 
all, it was a loftier thing to be on the side oi 
the oppressed than on that of the oppressors." 
Our conversation now began to take a contro- 
versial turn ; I tried, in my eager fervour, to 
impart to him my own Catholic convictions ; 
but he only smiled at my efforts, said that he 
felt a sincere pity for my superstition, and 
that he was lorn a Jew, and a Jew he would 
die. 

At this point of our discussion there came 
into my head a very extraordinary idea, sug- 
gested doubtless from above, for the wise of 
this world would have called it foolishness ; 
I said : 

" Since you are so confident in the strength 
and stability of your understanding, promise 
ine to WW MV9f**Jvti& that 1 will give you." 



i 



26 THE CONVERSION OF 

" Let me see it first ; what sort of thing 
is it?" 

" Only this medal," said I, and I held np 
to him a medal of the Blessed Virgin, at sight 
of which he threw himself back in his chair, 
<vith a gesture of mingled indignation and 
astonishment. 

" Bnt," said I, quietly, " from your point 
of view it must be perfectly indifferent to 
you, whereas it would give me the very great- 
est pleasure." 

" Oh, I will not refuse you," he exclaimed, 
with a hearty laugh ; u I shall at least show 
you that people have no right to accuse us 
Jews of obstinate and insurmountable infa- 
tuation. Besides, you are furnishing me with 
a charming chapter for my notes and impres- 
sions of my travels." And he went on with 
a succession of jests which wrung my heart, 
for to me they were so many blasphemies. 

However, I threw round his neck a ribbon, 
to which one of my daughters had attached 
the blessed medal while we were talking. 
And now there remained a point still more 
difficult to gain. I wished him to recite S. 
Bernard's pious invocation, Ifemorare, o piis- 
sima Virgo. . . . But this was too much for 
him ; he refused very decidedly, and in a 
tone which seemed to say : Really, this man's 
impertinence is beyond all bounds. Still an 
interior force urged me on, and I combated 
his reiterated refusals with the energy of des- 






MARIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 27 

peration. I held out the prayer to him, and 
begged him to take it away with him, re- 
questing him to be kind enough to write it 
out for me, as I did not possess another copy 
of it. 

At length he yielded, as if to rid himself 
of my importunity, and said, in a tone of 
vexation and contempt, ""Well, I will write it 
out ; you shall have my copy and I will keep 
yours;" and then he withdrew, muttering as 
ne went, " What an unreasonable fellow that 
is ! I wonder what he would say, if I were 
to plague him thus to make him recite some 
of my Jewish prayers ! " 

After he was gone, my wife and I looked 
at each other some time without speaking a 
word. Distressed by the blasphemy to which 
we had been compelled to listen, we united in 
imploring pardon from God for him, and we 
charged our two little daughters to say an 
Ave Maria at night for his conversion. 

From this point every circumstance seems 
so important in order to the clear setting forth 
of this great work of God, that I feel it a duty 
to relate, as minutely and as accurately as 
I can, every thing that passed, from the day 
when Katisbonne carried away the Memorare 
to the moment when the Mother of Mercy 
removed the veil which obstructed his soul's 
vision, and he received the grace to make a 
public profession of the Catholic faith. 

At first Katisbonne could not get over 



28 THE CONVERSION OF 

Ins astonishment at my importunity : he, 
however, copied out the prayer; he read it 
and read it again, in order to discover what 
could give it such worth in my estimation, 
and why I ascribed to it so mighty an effi- 
cacy. By dint of writing and reading it he 
had got it by heart; it recurred to his memory 
continually; he went about repeating it me- 
chanically, just as we unconsciously hum an 
air which has struck our fancy. 

I, on my part, felt, entirely absorbed in 
this result of my interview with a man of 
whom I knew next to nothing, and with whom 
I had conversed that day for the first time. 
I could not account for the internal force 
which impelled me towards him, and which 
inspired me with a deep inexplicable convic- 
tion that God would, sonner or later, open his 
eyes. I resolved to prevent, at all hazards, 
his departure from Rome. I went to pay him 
a visit at the Hotel Serny ; and as he was not 
within, I left a note for him, requesting him 
to call on me on the following day, which was 
Sunday, at about half-past ten in the morning. 

In the evening it was my turn to watch 
before the Blessed Sacrament, according to 
the pious custom at Rome, in company with 
Prince M. A. B., and some other friends. 
begged them to join me in my prayers to ob 
tain of God the conversion of a Jew. 



MAEIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 20 

Sunday, January 16^t, 18i2, 

Ratisbonne came punctually at the hour 
appointed, and said to me, in an ofl-hand 
way, " Well, I hope you have forgotten your 
yesterday's dreams. I am come to say good- 
bye to yon ; I am off to-night." 

" My dreams! the thoughts which you are 
pleased to call dreams occupy me more 
than ever ; and as to your going away, we 
will not speak of that, for you must absolutely 
put it off for a week." 

" Oh, that is impossible ; I have taken my 
place." 

"What of that? We will go together to 
the office to say that you have changed your 
mind and are not going." 

a Oh, now this is going too far; most de- 
cidedly I leave to-night." 

" Most decidedly you will not leave to- 
night, even if I have to lock you up in my 
own room." 

And then I went on to tell him that he 
could not leave Rome without having seen so^ne 
grand ceremony at St. Peter's ; that in a very 
few days he would have a very favourable 
opportunity ; and, in short, he was so amazed 
at my pertinacity, that he suffered me to lead 
him off to the office to erase his name from 
the list of travellers; and then we visited the 
houses of the Augustinians and Jesuits. 

I dined that same day at the Borghese pal- 
ace, in company with the Count de Laferron- 
3* 



30 THE CONVERSION OF 

nays ; and in the course of the evening I told 
him the hopes that filled my own heart, and 
earnestly commended my young Jewish friend 
to his prayers. In the unreserved conversa- 
tion that followed, M. de Laferronnays spoke 
to me of the confidence he had always felt in 
the protection of the Blessed Virgin, even at 
the time wdien the cares and distractions of 
political life had scarcely permitted that prac- 
tical piety of which his later years offered so 
edifying an example. " Keep up a good 
hope," said he ; " if he says the Memovare, 
you have him to a certainty, and many others 
with him." 

Monday, January 17(h, 1842. 

I walked in different directions with Ra- 
tishonne, who came to me about one o'clock. 
I was grieved to notice the little fruit of our 
conversations. He was still in the same dis- 
position of mind — still hated Catholicism in- 
tensely, and made the most disparaging 
remarks about it — still parried by raillery, 
arguments which he thought not worth the 
trouble of serious refutation. 

Mr. de Laferronnays died the same night 
at eleven o'clock. He left to his sorrowing 
friends and family the memory of an edifying 
example, and the consoling hope that God 
had called him thus because he was ripe for 
heaven.* Having long loved him as my own 

* At the end will be found some details of the last mo- 
ments of this truly noble and Christian man. 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNiC. 81 

father, I had my part not only in the sorrow 
of his family, but m the mournful duties 
which devolved upon them; yet the thought 
of Katisbonne followed me importunately even 
beside the bier of my friend. 

Tuesday, January IStk, 1842. 

I had passed part of the night with this 
sorrowing family, and felt unwilling to leave 
them ; yet my thoughts turned restlessly to 
Itatisbonne, as though an unseen hand were 
drawing me towards him. I did not wish 
to leave the remains of my friend, but I 
could not banish from my mind this soul 
which 1 was so anxious to subdue to the 
faith. I communicated my mental conflict 
to the Abbe G., who had been for many 
years the chaplain and the friend of M. de 
Laferronnays. " Go," said lie to me, " go 
and carry on the work you have begun ; in 
doing so you will best fulfil the wishes of 
our deceased friend, who prayed fervently 
for the conversion of this young man." 

I immediately ran after Ratisbonne, and 
took possession of him ; I showed him various 
religious antiquities, that I might keep the 
great truths of Catholicism in contact with his 
mind. I got him to visit a second time the 
church of Aracoeli. If he felt any return of 
his emotion it was very fugitive, for he lis- 
tened coldly to me, and answered all my ob- 
servations with witticisms. "I will turn over 



32 THE CONVERSION OF 

these things in my mind," said he, " when I 
am at Malta. I shall have plenty of time on 
my hands, for I am to spend two months there, 
and I shall be glad of any thing to keep me 
from ennui." 

Wednesday, January Idlh, 1842. 

We walked in the direction of the Capitol 
and Forum. Close by, on the Coelian hill, is 
the church of S. Stefano Rotondo, the walls of 
which are covered with frescoes, which repre- 
sent with terrible fidelity the various torments 
of the early martyrs. Eatisbonne was horri- 
fied as we looked at them. " It is a hideous 
sight," said he, as though to anticipate my 
observations ; " but those of your religion 
w^ere quite as cruel to the poor Jews in the 
middle ages as the persecutors of antiquity 
were to the Christians." 

I showed him at St. John Lateran the bas- 
reliefs above the statue of the twelve apostles. 
On one side are the figures of the Old Testa- 
ment, on the other their fulfilment in the 
person of the Messias. The comparison seemed 
to him ingenious. 

We continued our walk towards the villa 
Wolkonski. Iiatishonne was surprised at my 
calmness ; he could not reconcile it with my 
eager desire for his conversion, and he re- 
marked that he was more than ever a Jew. I 
answered that I was full of confidence in the 
promises of God, and that I was convinced 



MAJilE-ALPIIONSE RATISBONNE. 

that, since he was honest and sincere, 
would one day be a Catholic, even if an ang^l 
from heaven were necessary to enlighten him. 
We were then passing by the Scala Santa; 
I took off my hat, and pointing to my compa- 
nion, said, "Hail, Scala Santa, here is a man 
who will one day ascend you on his kness." 
Ratisbonne burst into a fit of laughter, and 
we separated without my being able to in- 
dulge the feeblest hope that I had, in any 
degree, shaken his convictions. But I be- 
lieved Him who hath said : Knocks and it 
shall be opened to you. I returned to pray 
beside the remains of my beloved friend ; 
and as I knelt I asked him to aid in the 
conversion of my young friend, if, as- I 
hoped, he had already attained the rest of 
the blessed. 

Thursday, January 20<&, 1842. 

Ratisbonne has not made the slightest ad- 
vance towards the truth; his will is inflexi- 
ble as ever, he turns every thing into ridi- 
cule, and seems to mind only earthly tilings. 
About noon he went into a cafe on the 
Piazza di Spagna to read the newspapers. 
There he found my brother in-law, Edmund 
Humann; they chatted over the news of the 
day with a flippancy and an ease which 
excluded all idea of any serious preoccupa- 
tion of mind.* 

* It seems as if it had pleased Providence to order ai. 

0^ 



34 THE CONVERSION OF 

It was about one o'clock. I had to make 
some arrangements at the church of S. An- 
drea delle Fratte for the ceremony of the 
morrow. But here is Ratisbonne coming 
down 'the Via Condotti ; he will go with me, 
wait for me a few minutes, and thea we 
will continue our walk. We entered the 
church. Ratisbonne noticed the preparations 
for a funeral, and asked for whom they were 
made. " For a friend I have just lost, and 
whom I loved exceedingly, Mr. de Laferon- 
nays." He then began to walk about the 
nave, and his cold indifferent look seemed 
to say, " This is certainly a very ugly 
church." I left him on the epistle side ot 
the church, to the right of a small enclo- 
sure destined to receive the coffin, and went 
into the convent. 

I had only a few words to say to ox>.*», of 
the monks — I wanted a tribune prepared 
for the family of the deceased ; my absence 
could not have been more than ten or twelve 
minutes. ' 

When I came back into the church I sav/ 

things so as to exclude the possibility of doubt as to Ratis- 
bonne's state of mind just before the unexpected grace of hia 
conversion. About half-past twelve, as he came out of the 
cafe, he met his friend the Baron de Lotzbeck, and enterod 
into conversation with him on matters the most frivolous. Ho 
spoke of dancing, of pleasure, of the fete given by Prince T. 
Had a.ny one said to him at that moment, Within two hours 
you iiitt be a CaiMic, he would certainly have thought him out 
of his senses. 



MARIE- ALPIIONSE EAlfSBONNfc. 35 

nothing of Katisbonne for a moment; then 
I caught sight of him on his knees, in front 
of the chapel of S. Michael the Archangel. 
I went up to him, and touched him three or 
four times before he became aware of my 
)resence. At length he turned towards me, 



E 



is face bathed in tears ; joined his hands, 
and said, with an expression wdiich no words 
will render : " Oh, how this gentleman has 
prayed for me ! " 

I was cpite petrified with astonishment; 
I felt what people feel in presence of a mi- 
racle. I raised Katisbonne, I led him, or 
rather almost carried him, out of the church; 
I asked him what was the matter, and where 
he wished to go. "Lead me where you 
please," cried he ; u after what I have seen 
I obey." I urged him to explain his mean- 
ing, but he could not; his emotion was too 
mighty and profound. He drew forth from 
his bosom the miraculous medal, and cov- 
ered it with kisses and with tears. I 
brought him back to his apartment ; and 
notwithstanding my repeated questions, I 
could get from him nothing but exclama- 
tions, broken by deep sobs : " Oh, what bliss 
is mine ! how good is the Lord ! what a ful- 
ness of grace and of happiness ! how pitiable 
the lot of those who know not ! " Then he 
burst into tears at thought of heretics and 
misbelievers. At length he asked me if I did 
not think him mad. " But no " he exclaimed, 



S6 THE CONVERSION OF 

" I am in my right senses ; my God, my God, 
T am not beside myself; every one knows that 
I am not mad ! " 

This wild emotion became gradually more 
calm, and then liatisbonne threw his arms 
around me and embraced me. His face was 
radiant, I might almost say transfigured ; he 
begged me to take him to a confessor ; wanted 
to know when lie might receive holy baptism, 
for now he could not live without it ; yearned 
for the blessedness of the martyrs whose suf- 
ferings he had seen depicted on the walls of 
S. Stefan o Rotonclo. He told me that he 
could give me no explanation of his state un- 
til he had received permission from a priest 
to do so ; u for what I have to say," he added, 
" is something I can say only on my knees." 

I took him immediately to the Gesu to see 
Father de Yillefort, who begged him to ex- 
plain himself. Then Katisbonne drew forth 
his medal, , kissed it, showed it to us, and ex- 
claimed : "I have seen her/ I have seen her! " 
and his emotion again choked his utterance. 
But soon he regained his calmness, and made 
his statement. I give it in his own words : 

" I had been but a few moments in the 
church when I was suddenly seized witli an 
unutterable agitation of mind. I raised my 
eyes, the building had disappeared from be- 
fore me ; one single chapel had, so to speak, 
gathered and concentrated all the light ; and 
in the midst of this radiance I saw standing 



MARIE-ALPUONSE BATISBONNE. 37 

on the altar lofty, clothed with splendours, 
full of majesty and of sweetness, the Yirgin 
Mary, just as she is represented on my medal. 
An irresistible force drew me towards her; 
the Yirgin made me a sign with her hand 
that I should kneel down ; and then she 
seemed to say, That will do! She spoke not 
a word, but I understood all." 

Brier as this statement is, Ratisbonne could 
not utter it without pausing frequently to take 
breath, and to. subdue the emotion with which 
he was thrilling. We listened to him with a 
sacred awe, mingled with joy and with grati- 
tude, marvelling at the depth of the counsels 
of God, and at the ineffable treasures of His 
mercy. One word struck us especially by its 
depth of mystery : She spoke not a woi'd, but 
I understood all. Indeed, it was quite enough 
to listen to Patisbonne ; the Catholic faith 
exhaled from his heart like a precious perfume 
from the casket, which contains it indeed, but 
cannot confine it. He spoke of the Ileal Pre- 
sence like a man who believed it with all the 
energy of his whole being ; but the expression 
is far too weak, he spoke like one to whom it 
Was an object of direct perception. 

On leaving Father de Yillefort, we went 
to give thanks to God, first at S. Maria Mag- 
giore, the favoured basilica of the Blessed 
Yirgin, and then at S. Peter's. 

It is impossible to convey an idea of the 
transport of Patisbonne when he found him- 



38 THE CONVERSION OF 

self in these churches. " Ah," said he to me, as 
he warmly pressed my hands, " now I under- 
stand the love with which Catholics regard 
their churches, and the piety which leads them 
to embellish and adorn them ! . . . How good 
it is to be here! one would long to go no more 
out for ever ! . . . it is earth no longer, it is the 
vestibule of heaven." 

At the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, the 
Real Presence of Jesus so overwhelmed him 
that he was on the point of fainting ; and I 
was obliged to lead him away, so awful did 
it seem to him to appear before the living 
God with the stain of original sin upon him. 
He hastened to take refuge in the chapel of 
the Blessed Virgin.* " Here," said lie to me, 
" I can have no fear ; I feel myself under "the 
protection of an illimitable mercy." 

He prayed with great fervour at the tomb 
of the holy apostles. The history of the con- 
version of S. Paul, which I related to him, 
made him shed tears abundantly. 

He was astonished at the strength of the 
posthumous bond, to use his own expression, 
which united him to M. de Laferronnays ; he 
wished to pass the night beside his remains — 
gratitude, he said, made it a duty. But Father 
de Yillefort, seeing that he was exhausted 



* Many may be glad to remark, that M. Ratisbonne was 
born in 1814, on the 1st of May, the month consecrated by 
Catholic piety to the Mother of Divine Grace. 



MARIE- ALPHONSE RAHSBONNE. 39 

with fatigue, prudently opposed this pious 
desire, and advised him not to remain later 
than ten o'clock. 

Ratisbonne then told us that the night 
before he had not been able to sleep ; that 
he had always before his eyes a large cross, 
of a peculiar form, and without the image of 
our Saviour. "I made," said he, " incredible 
efforts to drive away this iigure ; but they 
were all fruitless." Some hours later his eye 
casually fell on the reverse of the miraculous 
medal, and he recognised his cross. 

Meanwhile I was impatient to return to the 
family of M. de Laferronnays : I had such 
consolation to give them, at the moment when 
the venerated remains of him whom they be- 
wa^ed were about to be taken from before 
thei) eyes. I entered the chamber of death 
in a state of agitation, I might almost say of 
joy, which at once attracted the attention of 
all present, and showed them that I had some- 
thing of importance to communicate. They 
all followed me into an adjoining room, and I 
hastily related all that had passed. 

I had brought them tidings from heaven. 
Their tears of grief were in a moment changed 
into tears of gratitude. These poor, smitten 
hearts could now bear with perfect Christian 
resignation that keenest of sacrifices, which 
death, exacts, the last farewell to the remains of 
him they had loved. 

But I was eager to see again the son 



40 THE CONVERSION OF 

whom God had just given me ; he had begged 
me not to leave him alone ; he felt that he 
needed a friend into whose heart he could pour 
out the unfathomable emotions of such a day. 

I asked him again and again the circum- 
stances of the miraculous vision. He was 
quite unable to explain how he had passed 
from the right side of the church to the chapel, 
which is on the left, and from which he was 
separated by the preparations that had been 
made for the funeral service. All he knew 
was, that he had found himself suddenly on 
his knees, and prostrate close to this chapel. 
At first he had been enabled to see clearly 
the Queen of Heaven, in all the splendour of 
her immaculate beauty ; but he could not 
sustain the radiance of that divine light. 
Thrice he had tried to gaze once more on the 
Mother of Mercy ; thrice he proved his in- 
ability to raise his eyes beyond her blessed 
hands, from which there flowed, in luminous 
rays, a torrent of graces. 

" O my God ! v cried he, " I who but half 
an hour before was blaspheming still ! I who 
felt a hatred so deadly of the Catholic religion ! 
. . . But all who know me know well enough 
that, humanly speaking, I have the strongest 
reasons for remaining a Jew. My family is 
Jewish, my bride is a Jewess, my uncle is a 
Jew. . . . In bec^ozik^ a Catholic, I sacrifice 
all the interest£<SjiLi$8^e hopes I have on 
x&rtb ; and J0/1 ani s S£k mad— every one 



tot LIBRARY 



MABIE-ALPHONSE EATISBONNE. 41 

knows that I am not mad, that I have never 
been mad ! Surely they must receive my tes- 
timony." 

Friday, January 2\st, 1842. 

The news of this signal miracle began to 
spread through Rome.* People were run- 
ning from house to house, questioning one an- 
other, relating to one another the imperfect 
details they had been able to gather. It was 
all in vain that, with customary caution, they 
were on their guard lest they should receive 
a statement so startling on insufficient tes- 
timony. Doubt soon became impossible in 
presence of facts so evident and so notorious. 
Every one seemed to bless God for the 
privilege of being in Rome at a time when 
it had pleased Him to quicken our confidence 
in the immaculate Yirgin, by attesting in so 
wonderful a way the power of her intercession. 
Every one longed to see and to question the 
thrice-happy youth, for whom the Mother of 
Divine Grace had descended from heaven to 
earth. 

* Yesterday morning, as wo were taking our c. occiate in 
haste, before visiting S. Agnesefudri le Mure, our good Monica 
came running in to tell us, in the joy of her heart, the news, 
Un Ebreo e convertko ! — a Jew was converted yesterday ; yes, 
here, in our church of S.Andrea delle Fratre ! Gesic mio! che 
Id miraculo f We could not stay to hear more. In the eve- 
ning this conversion was the topic of conversation at 
Cardinal Pacca's ; and this morning I heard all the details of 
this striking event. I met M. de Bussieres in the salon of tho 
Countess K., and he was good enough to relate to us what he 
has since published." — Gqume ; les trois Rome, ii. 173. 
4* 



4:2 THE CONVERSION OF 

1 was -with Ratisbonne at Father Ville- 
fort's, when General Chlapouski was intro- 
duced. "Sir," said he, "so you have seen 
the likeness of the Blessed Virgin ; tell me all 
about it." 

" The likeness, sir ! " cried Ratisbonne, 
interrupting him ; " the likeness ! I have seen 
her herself, in reality, in her own person, 
just as I see you there before me." 

I cannot refrain from observing here, that 
even if we can imagine an illusion m the 
case of a person of Ratisbonne's character 
and education, with prejudices so violent, 
and with such interests both of affection and 
of position, it could not have been produced 
or aided by any outward representation ; for 
in the chapel which was the scene of the 
miracle, there is no statue, or picture, or 
image of the Blessed Virgin, of any kind. 

I was anxious now that Ratisbonne should 
be introduced to the family of M. de La- 
ferronnays. The most critical event of his 
life was so bound up with the bereavement 
which weighed so sorely upon them, that it 
seemed but right that he should alleviate 
their sorrow, by telling them with his own lips 
of the tie of everlasting gratitude wherewith 
it had pleased God to link his soul with that 
of their departed one. But he was too much 
affected to talk consecutively; he could do 
little more than press with an indescribable 
agitation the hands which were stretched out 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 43 

to him, as to a brother or to a beloved child. 
" Oh, believe me, believe my words," said he 
repeatedly, when they questioned him ; " it is 
to the prayers of M. de Laferronnays that I 
owe my conversion." 

Tiie new convert spent at my house the 
few days that passed before the retreat, in 
which lie was to be prepared for his baptism. 
lie read me some parts of his letters to his 
bride, to his uncle, to all the members of his 
family ; so that I was enabled to read his 
soul to its lowest depth. In onr private 
conversations he recurred continually to the 
manifest proofs, which ought to convince the 
most sceptical, of the miraculous intervention 
by which his conversion was effected, and of 
his own perfect sincerity. 

" The weightiest inducements," said he, 
"the strongest interests, bound me to my 
religion. A man has a claim to be believed 
when he sacrifices every thing to a conviction 
which must have come from heaven. . . If 
allithat I have stated is not rigorously true, 
I commit a crime, not only the most daring, 
but the most senseless and motiveless. In 
making my entrance into Catholicism by a 
sacrilegious lie, I not only risk my position in 
this world, but I lose my soul, and assume the 
frightful responsibility of all those whom my 
example may induce to do as I am doing. 
And what interest can I have in this? Alas, 
when my brother became a Catholic, and a 



44 THE CONVERSION OF 

priest, I persecuted him with a more unrelent- 
ing fury than any other member of my family. 
We were completely sundered ; I hated him 
with a virulent hatred, though he had fully 
pardoned me. At the time of my betrothal, 
I said to myself that it was fitting that I 
should be reconciled with my brother; I 
wrote him a few cold lines, to which he re- 
turned an answer full of tenderness and of 
charity. . . . 

" One of my nephews died eighteen 
months ago. My brother, the abbe, wished 
to baptise him ; when I knew it, I was in a 
frenzy of rage. ... I trust that God may send 
me the severest of tests, that His own glory 
may be advanced, and that the world may 
know that I am sincere." 

And surely we cannot question the sin- 
cerity and good faith of the man who, in his 
twenty-eighth year, sacrifices all the joys of 
Iris heart, all the hopes of his life, at the call 
of conscience. For he knew well all the con- 
sequences of his resolution; he knew that 
Christianity is the worship of the Cross ; 
again and again he had been told of the trials 
which awaited him, and of the duties laid 
upon him by the religion which he was so ea- 
ger to embrace. 

From the moment in which he requested 
the sacrament of baptism, he was placed un- 
der the care of the venerable father who rules 
a society justly dear to every Christian. This 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 45 

good father, after hearing his story with his 
wonted benignity, and at the same time with 
calm gravity, had urged him to weigh well 
the sacrifices he would be compelled to make, 
the serious obligations he would have to fulfil, 
the peculiar conflicts which awaited him, the 
temptations and testing trials to which a step 
like his would expose him ; and then, pointing 
to a crucifix which stood on the table, he said : 

" That cross which you saw in your sleep, 
when once you have been baptised, yon 
must not only worship it, but you must bear 
it;" and then, opening the Holy Scriptures, 
he turned to the second chapter of Ecclesias- 
ticus. and read to Katisbonne these words: 

" Son, when thou com est to the service 
of God, stand in justice and in fear, and pre- 
pare thy soul for temptation. Humble thy 
heart and endure : incline thine ear, and re- 
ceive the words of understanding : and make 
not haste in the time of clouds. Wait 
on God with patience ; join thyself to God, 
and endure, that thy life may be increased 
in the latter end. Take all that shall be 
brought upon thee : and in thy sorrow endure, 
and in thy humiliation keep patience. For 
gold and silver are tried in the fire, but 
acceptable men in the furnace of humilia- 
tion. Believe God, and He will recover 
thee : and direct thy way, and trust in Him. 
Keep His fear, and grow old therein." 

These divine words produced a deep im- 



46 THE CONVEESI0N OF 

pression on Batisbonne. Far from discour- 
aging him, they strengthened his resolution, 
and gave him very serious and sober ideas 
of Christianity. He listened, however, in si- 
lence; but at the close of the retreat which 
preceded his baptism, he went in the evening 
to see the holy priest who had read him these 
words a week before, and begged for a copy 
of them, that he might preserve them, and 
meditate on them every day of his life. 

Such are the facts which I submit to the 
consideration of all thoughtful men. I have 
related them artlessly, in (their own simpli- 
city, in all their truthfulness ; for the edifica- 
tion of those who believe, for the instruction 
of those who are yet seeking the place of 
their rest. And happy shall I deem myself, 
if, after having w r andered long, too long, in 
the gloom and amidst the contradictions of 
Protestant sects, I may, by this simple nar- 
rative, excite in some erring brother the w T ill 
to cry, with the blind man in the Gospel, 
Zord, that my eyes may he opened I for every 
one who truly prays will soon have his eyes 
opened to the sunlight of Catholic truth.* 

* " My brother, two hours after his conversion, was seen 
by Cardinal Mezzofanti, who was ready to throw himself on 
his knees in adoration to God. Nothing was known of my 
brother at Rome, and at first great appi-ehensions were enter- 
tained as to what his character might turn out to be. He 
had never read two pages of the Bible, never received any religious 
instruction whatever, was altogether of a light and superficial 
character. The Blessed Virgin appeared to him as close as I 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 47 



THE BAPTISE!. 

Monday, January Slst, 1812. 

Those whose privilege it was to obtain ad- 
mission to the church of the Jesuits to-day, 
will not readily forget the ceremony which 
has completed that extraordinary event which 
still so profoundly affects the whole city, and 
which publicly authenticated one of those 
marvels of grace by which God would revive 
the faith of the lukewarm, and allure into 
the right way those who are yet walking in 
darkness. 

M. Eatisbonne has made to-day, in pre- 
sence of the Cardinal Yicar, his profession of 
the Catholic faith ; he has received holy bap- 
tism, has been confirmed, and has made his 
first communion. 

Long before the appointed hour the church 
of the Gesu, which had been chosen by the 
Cardinal Vicar for the ceremony, was filled 
with a pious crowd, eager to see this young 
Jew, whom the immaculate Virgin herself has 

am to you ; she made a motion to him that he should remain 
quiet under the divine influence. On rising out of his ecstasy, 
he had received intuitively t?*e knowledge of the Christian faith. . . . 
I believe that he has more than once received a repetition of 
the grace he had at Rome, but I have never asked him on the 
subject. . . . My uncle is worth from six to seven millions of 
francs ; he has disinherited my brother, who has renounced 
eveiy thing. 

" M. l'Abbk Thkodork Ratisbonne." 

A lliei Journal in France, p. 44. 



48 THE CONVERSION OF 

deigned to bring to the foot of the cross. 
There were present also many of those wan- 
dering sheep, those carious persons who long 
to see every thing that is novel and striking ; 
but a contagious reverence pervaded the con- 
gregation, and all hearts were for a time 
fused into a oneness ot emotion by the in- 
terest and awe inspired by the distinguished 
proselyte. 

Prudent precautions had been taken to 
preserve that degree of order which was ne- 
cessary for the common edification of all. 
The space between the altar of St. Ignatius 
and that of St Francis Xavier was prepared 
for the accommodation of the large assem- 
blage ; and although there were no places 
reserved, the zeal of true Catholics had fore- 
stalled the eagerness of the merely curious, 
and thrown around the altar the protection 
of their reverent silence and devout prayers. 

About half-past eight M. Ratisbonne, 
clothed in the white robe of a catechumen, 
was led in by the reverend Father Villefort, 
who had prepared him for baptism, and by 
Baron Theodore de Bussieres, his sponsor, 
and took his place in the chapel of St. An- 
drew, near the principal entrance of the- 
church.* During the half-hour which fol- 

* " To-day we took part in. a ceremony, or rather an 
event, the memory of which will never fade away from 
my heart — the baptism of M. Ratisbonne. Ten days only 
had passed since his conversion ; bnt the marvellous neophyte 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 40 

lowed, he was naturally the object of general 
curiosity; but he endured with perfect re- 
signation this severe test, so trying at a mo- 
ment when his heart was heaving with the 
yearning presentiments of a new life. From 
time to time he fervently pressed the rosary 
which he held in his hand, or gazed on the me- 
dal attached to it, as if to seek in the thought 
of her whose intercession had saved him, the 
strength and courage he so much needed. 

At nine o'clock, his Eminence Cardinal 
Patrizi, Yicar of his Holiness, began to recite 
the prayers prescribed in the ritual for the 
baptism of adults. There are found psalmf 
which seem as though they had been written 
expressly to clothe with words the feelings o± 
the catechumen, and to tell out the way in 
which the Lord had been pleased to call him 
to the truth. For so wondrous is the depth 
of the Holy Scriptures, that every one find? 
in them the expressions which render mosl 
aptly the ever-varying experience of his soul, 
and the manifold circumstances of his inner 
life. 

had understood all, and the illustrious Cardinal Mezzofanti, who 
is charged with the examination of catechumens, was amazed 
at the plenitude of light which the Father of lights had so in- 
stantaneously poured into this privileged soul. . . . What p 
spectacle ! M. de Bussieres, a converted Protestant, leading 
a Jew into the hosom of a Catholic Church ! and what a Jew ! 
a jeune France of eight-and-twenty, in all the fulness of his 
powers, his reason, and his self-will; but yesterday godless, 
mocking, hlaspheming, and to-day gentle as a lamb, . . ."— 
Gaume ; les trovi Rome, ii. 220. 
5 



50 THE CONVERSION OF 

And what could paint more vividly the 
troubled and weary heart of the young Jew, 
as he beheld the enchantment pass away from 
the face of earth, and was sad amidst the 
pleasures of his favoured position ? Why art 
thou cast down, my soul? Poor stricken 
soul, in vain dost thou shift thine horizon, and 
seek the distraction of thy sadness in other 
and strange lands ; still will thy tears be thy 
bread day and night, for there is no resting- 
place for the exile, — for day by day it is said 
to thee, in thy secret heart, where is now thy 
God? But hope thou in God; for soon shalt 
thou confess His Holy Name, and find the 
heart's true rest, the balm for every wound : 
hope thou in God ; for Twill still give praise 
to Him,) the salvation of my countenance, and 
my God. Think, that in His own appointed 
time He hath sent unto thee the Mother of 
mercies : in the day-time the Lord' hath com- 
manded, His mercy. Hope thou, Ihen, in 
God ; fear no longer to draw near m.^ the 
tabernacle of awe wherein lies hidden the 
Holy of Holies ; say thou rather in thin<» 
heart, and I will go in to the altar of God; 
He alone can slake my soul's deep thirst. 
Thou feelest now the hideousness of sin, of 
thine own inherited taint; when shall I come, 
when shall I enter the sacred ark, out of 
which is no salvation? when may I cast myself 
down before the face of my God ? when shall 
I come and appear before the presence of God? 



MAKIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 51 

Like as the hart panteth after the fountains of 
water, so longeth my soul for the hallowed 
streams of baptism, so thirsteth my sou] for 
God, the spring and fount of all strength and 
of all life. 

When these preliminary prayers were said, 
his Eminence proceeded in procession to the 
lower end of the church. There Father Vil- 
lefort and M. de Bussieres presented to him 
the young Jew. " What cravest thou of the 
Church of God? " " Faith." And this faith, 
this holy Catholic faith, it was his already; 
the bright and morning star had already risen 
upon him, and enlightened him with its clear 
shining. And thus, when commanded to 
" detest the perfidy of the Jews, to put away 
with contempt the superstition of the He- 
brews," he knew not a moment's hesitation, 
and the meek firmness of his replies showed 
that he was not unworthy of the boon the 
Church accorded him, in abridging for him 
the tests appointed for catechumens. 

Already has the bishop breathed thrice 
upon him to put to flight the spirit of evil ; 
he has marked him with the Christian's 
characteristic mark, the venerable sign of 
the cross, on his forehead, on his eyes, on 
his ears, on his breast, on his shoulders ; in 
order to impress upon the new-born Chris- 
tian that it was henceforth his duty to hallow 
to Christ his intelligence and his heart, and 
to bear with loving readiness the yoke of 



52 THE CONVERSION OF 

the cross. He lias given him to taste the 
salt of wisdom, and has said over him the 
prayers of exorcism. The neophyte is pros- 
trate on the threshold of the temple — a 
last, surest evidence of submission, a last, 
unlooked-for test is applied, " Kiss the dust ;" 
and calmly and unhesitatingly he obeys. 
There is no doubt that he is a Christian indeed, 
for his heart has intuitively discerned that hu- 
mility is the strait gate which leadeth to truth 
and to salvation. Lesson of wondrous elo- 
quence for us all, who are but too prone to 
forget that Jesus our Master was meek and 
lowly in heart. 

There is no doubt; the mind that was in 
Christ is in this candidate for Christ's service 
too, for he is lowly and submissive. The 
Church hesitates no longer; she looks upon 
him, she treats him as her own beloved child. 
She remembers no more his life in times past, 
nor his blasphemies of yesterday ; she beholds 
in him only the privileged child of Mary's 
adoption. The bishop places the end of his 
stole in his hand, in token of adoption, to 
teach him that in the Catholic family the 
children must lean trustfully on their fathers ; 
and thus he leads, as in triumph, this beloved 
sheep of the fold, snatched from the jaws of 
the destroyer, to the altar of St. Ignatius. 

But how shall we render justice to the 
emotion of the congregation as Ratisbonne 
passed before them ? His face characterised 



MARIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 53 

by a happy blending of decision and of gen- 
tleness, his long beard, his measured step, hia 
white garment, every thing carried them back 
in thought to the days of the primitive Church 
— the Church of the catacombs. 

Some worthy Koman women, who were 
crushing me in order to see more clearly, well 
expressed in their own simple way the brother- 
ly charity which animated all who were pre-' 
sent : Ah, quanto sei caro ! ah, heato lui ! and 
then they kissed their rosaries as if to thank 
the cause of our joy for this triumph of grace. 

Then they pointed with affectionate curi 
osity to him whom God deigned to use to pre- 
pare His w T ay before His face : " See he is a 
Frenchman — it w T as he who gave the medal to 
the Jew, who made him pray to the Blessed 
Virgin. Ma che buon signore ! che Dio le bcr^ 
edica ! " And we too repeated their words, 
and said in our deepest hearts: May God 
bless him, and all that are his! 

And now the bishop is standing near the 
altar, and the catechumen kneels before him 
to receive the sacred waters of baptism. He 
is asked his name. "Marie," is his reply, 
with an outburst of gratitude and of love; 
Marie ! the thrice-blessed name of the Queen 
of Patriarchs, who has opened to him the 
gates of the Church, and will open for him 
those of heaven — the everlasting gates. 

"What crave you?" 

" Baptism." 
5* 



54 THE CONVERSION OF 

" Do you renounce the devil \ " 

" I renounce him. 

" And all his pomps ? " 

u I renounce them." 
• " And all his works ? " 

" I renounce them." 

"Do you believe in God the Father Al- 
mighty, Creator of heaven and earth ? " 
H " I believe in Him." 

" Do you believe in Jesus Christ His only 
Son our Lord, who was born and who suffered 
for us?" 

I believe in Him." 

" Do you believe in the Holy Ghost, the 
Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of 
Saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of 
the flesh, and the life everlasting ? " 

" I do believe." 

The tone and accent of deepest conviction 
with which this child of Mary pronounced 
this profession of the Catholic faith, produced 
on all present an impression which still thrills 
throughout their whole being. 

" And now, what desirest thou ? " 

" Baptism." 

At length that sacred flood whose waters 
spring up unto everlasting life, has come 
down upon that brow so lowly bent ; Marie 
Ratisbonne rises up a Christian, — a Christian 
pure and fervent as are the angels who stand 
about the throne of God. 



MAKIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 55 

He holds in his hand the blessed taper, 
whose flame betokens that light of submissive 
faith which wavers not nor misleads. The 
laying on of hands and the unction with holy 
chrism impart to him a second grace, in con- 
firming the fulness of that which he has al- 
ready received. Henceforward Ratisbonne is 
a disciple of the cross ; he is prepared to confess 
aloud to all the faith of that Jesus who gave 
Himself for us. 

And then M. l'Abbe Dupanloup* ad- 
dressed to the congregation some of those 
glowing words which rise so readily from 
his heart when he has to tell of the good- 
ness of our God, or of the loving power of 
Mary. We give a few fragments — frag- 
ments, alas ! very incomplete and very weak 
— of this fervid improvisation. The sacred 
orator avowed before all his full and entire 
faith in the miraculous intervention of Mary, 
in the sudden conversion for which they 
were now blessing God; avoiding, as be- 
seemed a submissive son of the Church, every 
expression which might even seem to an- 
ticipate the regular decision of the one only 
competent authority on a question of mirac- 
ulous agency. 

* Now Bishop of Orleans. 



56 THE CONVERSION OF 



EXTRACTS FROM THE DISCOURSE OF M. DITPANLOTJP. 

The providence of God is wondrous in all its 
designs and in all its methods, and deeply 
are they to be pitied who can neither com- 
prehend nor extol it. For them the life of 
man is but a mournful mystery ; his days 
but a chain whose links are twined by fate ; 
and man himself but a creature, noble in- 
deed, but accursed in every faculty, thrust 
forth far from heaven upon this earth of 
tears and lamentation, to live in gloom, to 
die in despair, utterly forgotten by a God 
who heeds neither his virtues nor his sor- 
rows. . . But, O my God, Thou art not thus 
unheeding, neither hast thou thus fashioned 
us ; notwithstanding our profound and infinite 
misery, we are not to this extent miserable: 
Thy providence still keepeth watch over us ; 
higher than highest heavens, deeper far and 
wider than the great and wide sea ; it is an 
abyss unfathomable, of power, and wisdom, and 
of love Thou hast made us for Thy- 
self, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until 
they find rest in Thee. There is within us 
a sense of need, deep, infinite, which sways 

our whole souls, which devours us, and 

whenever we follow the instinctive tendency 

of this mighty want we surely find Thee 

I bless Thee, above all, I adore Thee for 
that from Thy lofty and eternal dwelling-place 



MARIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 57 

Thou dost remember, and remember with 
compassion, the creatures Thy hand hath 
formed ; for that from Thy heavens Thou 
dost design a look of pity and of love on 
us, the lowliest product of Thine almighty 
hand ; for that, as saith the Prophet, Thou 
dost shake the heavens and the earth, and 
multiply Thy prodigies, in order to save 
those whom Thou lovest so well .... to sub- 
due to Thyself one solitary soul 

And you, on whom every eye is now 
turned with unutterable tenderness — for it 
is God, it is the mercy of God, that we see 
and love in you — you, whose presence here 
inspires my thoughts — tell us what were your 

thoughts and the ways of your heart, 

by what hidden ways of mercy the Lord has 
followed you, brought you back 

For who are you ? what is your petition 
in this holy place ? what homage do you come 
to pay? what means that robe of stainless 
white you bear? Tell us whence you came, 
and whither your steps were bent? and what 
power has so suddenly changed your pur- 
poses ? . . . . Tell us how, like Abraham, your 
great ancestor, — Abraham, whose true son you 
have this day become, — you were going on, 
following the voice of the Lord, but not know- 
ing whither you went; your eyes yet sealed 
in darkness until you reached the Holy City. 

The work of the Lord has not yet 

reached its accomplishment ; but it is yours to 



58 THE CONVERSION OF 

tell us by what degrees the Sun of truth and 
of justice arose upon your soul, — what was its 

glowing dawn Why is it that you feel 

with us, more keenly perhaps than we feel, 
the good word of grace, the powers of the 
world to come, and all our hopes so full of 
blessedness? .... Tell us, for we have the 
right to ask, why do you thus enter into our 
possession, as into your own heritage? Who 
has placed you thus at home in our midst? for 
yesterday you were but a stranger and a so- 
journer with us ; we knew you not — or rather 
we knew you 

Here let' me utter all ; for I know what 
joy I shall infuse into your heart in setting up 
this memorial of your misery, and of the mer- 
cies of our God. 

You loved not the truth, though He who 
is the truth loved you ; you resisted the efforts 
of the most fervid and the purest zeal with a 
smile of disdain, or a contemptuous silence, 
or a subtle quibble, or a haughty demand of 
overwhelming evidence, and, alas ! with blas- 
phemous jests. O God most patient ! O Thou 
who lovest us in spite of our sins and our mis- 
eries ! Thy mercy has oftentimes a depth, a 
sublimity, a tenderness, a might and a de- 
licacy, which are to us infinite and incom- 
prehensible. 

Suddenly a rumour spreads throughout the 
Holy City, and diffuses consolation through- 
out all Christian hearts. He who yesterday 



MAEIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 59 

was a blasphemer, who, even this very morn- 
ing, ridiculed the friends of God — he preacheth 
the Gospel — grace from above has been poured 
upon his lips ; from his mouth proceed only 
blessing and words of gentleness ; the keenest 
light of faith has shone on his eyes ; the unc- 
tion of the Holy One has taught him all 
things. Whence has he acquired those en- 
lightened eyes of the soul, which see all, 
which have understood all f O God, Thou art 
good ; Thy goodness is infinite ; and I love to 
repeat those gracious words which we heard 
so recently from the blessed lips of him whose 
memory can never fade away from our hearts ; 
— we made lamentation for him but a few days 
since, but now we regret him indeed, yet we 
cannot grieve for him : " Yes, Thou art good, 
and the children of men have done well to 
call Thee the good God." * Thou shakest the 
laws of nature ; Thou deemest nothing too 
great for the salvation of Thy children. When 
Thou comest not Thyself, Thou sendest Thine 

angels Thine angels, did I say ? . . . O 

my God, shall I speak? a reverent reserve 
should close my lips — but qitw est ista — who 
is this? Silence and speech are alike impos- 
sible. 

Hail Mary, full of grace ! and thou lovest 
to shower down on us the plenitude of thy 
mother's heart. The Lord is with thee ! It 

* The last words of M. de Laferronnavs. 



60 THE CONVERSION OF 

is through thee that lie has been pleased to 
come down even unto us. And now it behooves 
me to borrow the kindling utterances of pro- 
phets, or to range" the courts of heaven in quest 
of images to set forth .thy dignity and thy 
praise. For, O Mary, thy name is sweeter to 
us than earth's purest joy, sweeter than its 
choicest odours, ravishing beyond the har- 
mony of angels, in corcle jubilus / sweeter to 
the believing heart than the honeycomb to 
the lips of the w T eary traveller, mel in lingua; 
more helpful and gentler to the guilty heart, 
when it repents, than is the dew of evening 
to the leaves which the scorching heats of 
noon have withered, ros in herbd. Thou art 
fair as the orb of night, pvlohra ut luna y and 
it is thou who settest again in the right way 
the feet of the wandering traveller ; thou art 
brilliant as the dawn, aurora conmrgens; mild 
and pure as the star of morn, stella matutina; 
and it is thou who dost herald the rising of 
the Sun of justice in our hearts. 

O Mary, I fail in power to show forth thy 
greatness and thy manifold claims to our love, 
and it is a joy to me to sink back overpowered 
by a glory so vast. But since I am speaking 
in the congregation of thy children, who are 
also my brethren, I will utter without fear 
the thoughts of my heart in regard of thy 
praise. 

At thy name, O Mary, the heavens rejoice, 
and earth sings for gladness of heart, while 



MARIE- ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 61 

hell shudders in impotent wrath. None can 
truly invoke thine aid and perish. The stately 
temples reared by mighty nations, the gold, 
the banners wrought by royal hands, and the 
humble thank-offerings laid by the manner 
on the threshold of some lowly chapel, the 
homage of highest art and the rude image 
traced by martyr hands on some wall of the 
catacombs, — all alike attest thy power to still 
every storm that perils the heart of man, and 
to draw down on us the mercy of our God. 
Mary, I have seen the wildest spots of earth 
smile at thy name and put on gracefulness; 
the pious dwellers in the far-off wilderness 
sing thy glories ; the echoing mountains and 
the ever-sounding torrents are vocal with thy 
praises. I have seen, in earth's most stately 
cities, the purest and noblest virtues flourish 
under the shadow of thy name; I have seen 
the thought of thee and the pure joy of thy 
feasts preferred to earth's most winning fasci- 
nations I have seen old men, after 

sixty, eighty years of a life void of faith and 
of virtue, rise on the bed of sickness; remem- 
ber, at sound of thy name, the God who had 
crowned their infancy with blessings ; and 
thou didst beam upon their dying eyes as a 

pledge of safety ancl of everlasting peace 

O Mary, who art thou, then ? Quce est istaf 
Thou art the Mother of our Saviour ; and Je- 
sus God over all, blessed for evermore, is the 
fruit of thy womb ; thou art our sister, soror 
Q 



62 THE CONVERSION OF 

nostra es / daughter of Adam, thou hast no 
part in our fatal heritage, and our woes elicit 
thy deepest, tenderest commiseration. 

O Mary, thou art the noblest creation of 
.lie power of God. Thou art the most winning 
device of His goodness. Thou art the sweet- 
est smile of His mercy. O God, open the 
eyes of those who see not, that they may see 
Mary, and know the sweet radiance of her 
mother's e # yes. Touch the hearts which love 
her not ; for to faith there is but one step from 
Mary to the Eternal Word, to that beauty 
ever old, yet ever new ; to that uncreated 
light which healetli our blinded eyes and sat- 
istieth our largest desires, from Mary to Jesus, 
from the Mother to the Son. 

Brother well-beloved, — and I am happy 
in being the first to greet }^ou by this name, — 
you see under what favourable auspices you 
make your entry into this new Jerusalem, 
which is the dwelling-place of God, — into the 
Church of the living God, which is the pillar 

and ground of the truth But before 

I allow your heart to expand to the fulness of 
joys which await it, there is a solemn lesson 
for you to-day ; and, as I am the first to cause 
you to hear the joyful sound of the Gospel, I 
dare not hide from you its most austere teach- 
ing. You have understood all, you tell us ; 
but permit me to ask you, have you under- 
stood the mystery of the cross ? Take 

good heed —it is the basis and ground-work 
of Christianity. 



MAEIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 63 

I do not mean now that hallowed cross 
which you lovingly revere, because it brings 
before you Jesus crucified in expiation of 
ypur sins. Let me borrow the energetic lan- 
guage of an ancient apologist of our faith, and 
say to you : We are not now concerned with 
the cross which it is so blessed to revere, but 
of that cross which you must learn to bear. 
JEcce crucesjam non adorandce, sed subeiindw. 
This is what you must thoroughly understand, 
if you are a Christian ; and this is what your 
baptism has already taught you 

Moreover, it were vain to attempt to 
conceal it, it can scarcely be that your fu- 
ture life should offer you no cross to be 
borne. I see them preparing ; undoubtedly 
you must revere them from afar, but there 
is something better than that — you must ac- 
cept them when they come near and endure 
them with good courage. I am greatly de- 
ceived if patience be not the appointed 
means of increasing and strengthening your 
faith, and enabling you to bring forth its 
fruits. And bless God for it. You have 
been brought within the Christian Church 
by Mary and by the Cross. It is an intro- 
duction of good augury. Blessed be God 
for it! for I know lie has given you ears 
to hear and a heart to understand this lan- 
guage. Son of the Catholic Church, you 
will share the destiny of your Mother! 
Look out on Eome, the spot on which you 



64: THE CONVERSION OF 

have- 1 just been new-born unto God ! Conti- 
nuous conflict and continuous triumph — this 
is her earthly heritage ; and thus nothing 
appals by its novelty, after eighteen cen- 
turies of warfare and of victory 

It is at the very centre of Catholic unity, 
at the footstool of the highest apostolical 
chair, whence flash forth the keenest purest 
rays of the faith to pierce the darkness of 
paganism, heresy, and Judaism, that the 
Church has poured on your brow the sav- 
in<>- stream of regeneration. It is Peter him- 
self, that Moses of the new law, worthily 
represented by the first vicar of his illus- 
trious successor, who has smitten for yon 
the rock of wonder, the immovable stone : 
Petra erat Ckristus, whence flows that wa- 
ter which springe th up unto eternal life. It 
is in the living flame of the Holy Ghost 
that you have been baptised : Spiritu Sancto 
et igne. The splendours of the noblest cer- 
emonies of our religion fall full upon you, 
and we who are round about you catch 
some gleams of their glory. It is to-day 
your Pentecost, and the Spirit of might and 
of love hath filled your heart! It is to-day 
your Paschal time, and Jesus Christ is about 
to feed you with His sacred Flesh and with 
His precious Blood. It is He Himself whom 
you will receive, really, substantially, and 
truly ; your faith, your emotion, the tears 
which stream from your eyes, anticipate all 



MARIE-ALPIIONSE EATISBONNE. 65 

I would say. Fear not that I shall weary you 
now with long and iusipid exposition and 
proof of a truth which it is your high blessed- 
ness to believe. I will say but one word, 
which you will feel to be true, — Jesus Christ 
is far too truly our God and our friend that 
He should feed our souls with an empty 
figure, and cheat our love with a baseless il- 
lusion ; besides, we need Him thus ; for He 
commands us to love Him so as to be ready 
to lay down our lives for Him, and the Di- 
vine Eucharist has ever been the food and the 
strength of martyrs. Hear what Christian 
antiquity hath believed and hath handed 
down 

But I pause, for I am retarding your 
blessedness. Now, at this moment, the eyes 
of heaven look lovingly down upon you, and 
earth gives you its added blessing, and Je- 
sus Christ awaits you. Go forward, then — 
the angels of God have begun this glad re- 
joicing, and the children of God echo it 
along here in earth ; and he who seemed to 
our eyes to die, and whose spirit liveth in 
the hands of the Lord, you know that his 
desires and his prayers have not been want- 
ing — the solemn moment is come. 

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, patriarchs 
and prophets cheer you on from out of hea- 
ven; and Moses gives you his blessing, be- 
cause the law written in your heart hath 
met and recognised the Gospel; mercy and 
6* 



66 THE CONVERSION OF 

truth uphold you, justice and peace compass 
you round about, repentance and innocence 
crown you with gladness; and it is Mary 
who receives you and who protects you. 

O Mary, it is an imperious want of our 
hearts, no less than a duty, to utter yet 
once again the prayer to which we owe, it 
may be, the consolations of this happy day. 
And throughout this vast assembly, behold, 
with one heart and one voice we say : 

" Remember, O Mary, Yirgin most piti- 
ful, that it has never been heard from old 
time that any one who has fled to thy pro- 
tection, implored thine aid, and sought thine 
intercesson, has been left desolate. Groan- 
ing beneath the burden of our sins, we 
come, O Yirgin of virgins, to cast ourselves 
into thine arms. O Mother of the Word, 
remember now those who stand in grace, 
those who are in sin ; remember now those 
who know thee, and those who know thee 
not; remember now all our miseries, and 
all thy tender pity. I will not say : Re- 
member this youth; for he is thy child, and 
the blessed and glorious conquest of thy 
love ; but I will say to thee : Remember 
those friends so dear, for whom he offers 
thee this day the first prayers of his Catho- 
lic heart ; restore them to him in time, restore 
them to him in eternity 

And since I am a stranger here, — but 
no, there are no strangers at Rome — every 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 67 

Catholic is a Roman, — but since we were 
both born on the soil of France, I know 
that I do but give utterance to the desires 
of all hearts here present when I say to 
thee : Remember France : it has still noble 
virtues, generous souls, heroic self-devoted- 
ness. Bring back again upon the Church 
of France the fair beauty of the days of old. 



The holy sacrifice of the Mass closed the 
ceremony. It was scarcely possible to wit- 
ness without a quickening of faith, the fervour 
with which the new convert prayed, and the 
silent recollectedness with which all the con- 
gregation united their prayers to his. It was 
especially at the solemn moment of com- 
munion that our Lord seemed to pour down 
His sweetness and His graces upon the pious 
multitude. Our dear brother Ratisbonne 
was so annihilated by his consciousness of the 
Divine Presence, that it was necessary to sup- 
port him as he drew near to the holy table ; 
and after having received the Bread of angels, 
he was unable to rise without the aid of Fa- 
ther Villefort and of his sponsor. His tears 
flowed abundantly ; he was quite overcome 
by the deptli and complexity of his emotions, 
and by the ineffable graces with which our 
Lord tilled his soul. 

To see this young man, but a few days 
before an obstinate Jew, and now a Catholic 



68 THE CONVERSION OF 

glowing with faith and charity, one could not 
help saying to one's self; O Lord, Thou art 
wonderful in all Thy works. And the pro- 
found exclamation of the convert was ever 
present to our thoughts : I understood all. 

A large number of persons gave the young 
convert the truest proof of their brotherly 
love, by following him to the holy table. 
This pious -communion in our Lord was most 
edifying, and gave to the whole ceremony a 
character of fervour and of love. 

In this sacred banquet, in which the 
chosen friends of God celebrated the ever-new 
miracle of his mercy, every heart was joined 
in love to the family that was sorrowing be- 
neath the visitation of God's hand. The 
thought of the beloved and venerable man 
whose departure from earth they mourned, 
threw a reflection of the heavenly glory over 
this pious solemnity. 0, how this gentleman 
has prayed for me ! were Ratisbonne's words, 
at the moment when the veil fell from his 
eyes, and when he knew nothing of this fer- 
vent Christian but that he had passed from 
earth. O Lord, I adore the depth of Thy 
councils. The prophet-king asked of old; 
Shall the dust of the tomb give thanks unto 
Thy name, and declare Thy truth? Yes, 
Lord, for Thou hast heard the prayer of the 
righteous man, and Thou hast poured down 
with full hands Thy consolations, into the 
wounds and sorrows of earth, that we may 



MARIE-ALPHONSE EATISBONNE. 69 

learn to give glory to Thy name ; and not al- 
low ourselves to sink into despondency ; Ut 
cantct tibi gloria mea, et non com/punger. 

And now it was finished and done. Rat- 
isbonne has been admitted to all the joys, to 
all the graces of Catholic life. Blessed be 
God who hath given us yet another brother} 
the voice of joy and of thanksgiving is in the 
dwellings of the just ; the song of triumph 
peals to the vault of the temple ; the re- 
strained emotion of every heart finds utter- 
ance. Te Deum laudanvus ! we praise Thee, 
O God ! shouted the congregation in one 
ecstatic burst : we praise Thee. And then 
we began to feel, with a thrill of joyful mirth, 
what is the communion of saints. Those 
manifold voices, mingled in one triumphal 
shout of gratitude, gave us a foretaste of the 
blessedness of heaven. The heart that could 
remain cold and unmoved amidst the enthusi- 
asm of this sublime shout was surely not the 
heart of a Catholic. 

After the Te Deum, the cardinal led the 
new-born child of the Church into the house 
of the Jesuits : and it is said, that when they 
had left the sacred building, he could not 
constrain his emotion, but pressed to his 
heart with paternal tenderness him whose 
feet he had set in the way of life. 

Ratisbonne's joy was indescribable. Sur- 
rounded by a crowd of persons eager to see 
him, to hear him, to embrace him, he received 



70 THE CONVERSION OF 

the congratulations of all with a bounding 
gladness of heart at being now a son of the 
holy Catholic family. 

An eye-witness relates, that when at length 
lie retired to the cell he had occupied during 
his retreat, liis first act was to prostrate him- 
self before his crucifix, to thank the Saviour 
of the world for the graces which had been 
vouchsafed to him. 

And as for those whose privilege it was to 
be present at this glorious ceremony, they 
went away with this consoling truth graven 
on their immost hearts : that when a man seeks 
God sincerely, He soon cometh, even though 
a miracle be needed to make plain His w T ay 
before Him. 

When God, in His fatherly tenderness, 
bestows on His children some of those ex- 
traordinary favours which rekindle faith and 
fxood the heart with a love passing all under- 
standing, they feel as if they would make here 
their tents amidst the delights of this interior 
joy, and prolong and retain all that has con- 
tributed to it — all that may perpetuate it. 

In order to satisfy the pious desire of de- 
vout souls, we will linger yet awhile beside 
the happy child of Mary; we will follow his 
steps and listen to his words from the thrice- 
blessed day when he was united to us by par- 
faking of the holiest of mysteries, to the time 
when this account is given to the world. 



MARIE- ALPHONSK RATISBONNE. 71 

And lie, too — he longed to abide on that 
Thabor. Object of such rare and abundant 
grace; having thrown far from him, like a 
garment worn out, the miseries of his past life ; 
adorned in that baptismal innocence, which, 
alas, so soon contracts stain in the world, lie 
pined for solitude, dreaded the throng of men, 
evaded the eager curiosity of all, and, as it were, 
set a seal upon his heart, lest any of the trea- 
sures confided to him by God should be lost. 

He manifested, then, a great desire to 
pass in retreat the days of dissipation which 
were drawing near. With what eye would lie 
gaze upon the fond pleasures and vain joys of 
earth ; he, to whom it had been given to gaze 
upon the mystic Rose, upon that fairest Flower 
of Heaven, and who, in the fervour of his 
nascent faith, in the deep joy of his grati- 
tude and love, was learning how sweet the 
Lord is ! 

But before entering upon this fresh retreat, 
which could be but an uninterrupted song of 
thanksgiving, there remained one duty to be 
discharged, one new happiness to be enjoyed. 
Having become the child of the Church, he 
yearned for the moment when he might be 
allowed to cast himself at the feet of the ve- 
nerable Pontiff, who guides with so sure a 
hand, through the raging storm and wind, the 
bark which bears us all towards the heavenly 
haven. 

We have heard the touching details o 



72 THE CONVERSION OF 

this interview ; and that we may make our 
readers partakers of oiir joy, we must seek an 
illustration from the most precious memories 
of Catholicism. 

Those who have visited the catacombs will 
remember, that at every step they met the 
image of the Good Shepherd bearing back to 
the fold the wandering sheep ; they will have 
remarked the expression of satisfied love, of 
fatherly tenderness, which the simple art of 
the first ages has rendered so truly. Let them 
now recall the feelings excited by this ever- 
recurring image, and then they may form 
some idea of this touching scene. 

M. Ratisbonne and M. Theodore de Bus- 
sieres were introduced to his Holiness by the 
reverend father the General of the Company 
of Jesus. After the customary genuflexions, 
they received that mighty benediction which 
Catholics prize so highly. 

The bo*y Father conversed with them for 
some time, and gave them many precious 
tokens of his affection, with all the frank and 
tender love of a father. He gave directions 
that they should be taken to see the interior 
of his palace. Pushing them before him, 
with a gracious familiarity, he led them into 
his bedchamber. Then the venerable succes- 
sor of the Prince of the Apostles gave them a 
touching evidence of his own trust in the 
protection of her whom the Church invokes 
as the Help of Christians ; he showed them an 



MAEIE-ALPHONSE EATISBOXNE. 73 

image of the Blessed Yirgin which he reveres 
with an especial devotion, and which is placed 
close to his bed. And then, wishing that M. 
Eatisbonne should preserve some memorial of 
his visit, his Holiness gave him, with his own 
hands, a crucifix to which special indulgences 
were attached. 

And if, when the days of trial and of con- 
flict come, the new soldier of the faith shall 
need to refresh his courage, let him remem- 
ber the sacred standard which the visible 
head of the Church then placed in his youth- 
ful hands ; and, beholding his crucifix, let him 
say .confidently, In hoc signo vinccs. 



Perhaps M. Eatisbonne will leave us be- 
fore he has time to take root in this land of 
promise. It is so delightful to see one's fam- 
ily after a long absence, to embrace a bro- 
ther who has preceded one in the way of the 
Lord. Far from weakening the heart's true 
ties, the Gospel sanctifies them and draws 
them closer ; its most faithful disciples will 
ever be, in all that is not opposed to the law 
of God, the most tender of sons, the most de- 
voted of friends. 

If, then, Providence remove him too soon 
from our brotherly affection, let him go,' like 
another apostle, fresh from the upper chamber, 
and manifest in his own country and in his 
father's house his new virtues, and exert the 
7 



74 THE CONVERSION OF 

gentle constraint of his prayers, and diffuse 
the fragance and the grace of his youthful 
soul, which, born but yesterday into Catholic 
life, is still adorned with all the charms of in- 
fancy. 

The earliest longings, the first thoughts of 
his heart, were for the regeneration of his 
brethren. Well, the Lord has read his secret 
heart, and has blessed him in regenerating 
that heart. In whatever way it may please 
God to lead him, our tender prayers will go 
with him, to draw down, upon him the grace 
of perseverance; that the Author of every 
good and perfect gift may endue him with 
strength for the fight, with patience in the 
trial, with humility in the flush of victory, and 
a glowing charity. 

Every young life is exposed to storm ; hap- 
pier than we are, he has been crowned before 
the conflict; but the r evil days will come. 
May he then remember his brethren at Rome ! 
May he never forget Mary, his mother ! 



MAEIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 75 



BAPTISM OF M. MAKIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 
Extract from the letter of an eye-witness. 

Paris, February 2d, 1842. 

A few weeks since a stranger arrived in 
Rome. He was young and rich ; lie has all 
the habits of that elegance, all the tastes of 
that brilliant frivolity, which education and 
fortune impart to young men of his age and 
stamp. He asks nothing of Italy but to be 
lulled by the soft languors of her winters, and 
some rays of the sun of her antique glory, of 
the deathless splendour of her sky and of her 
summers, the ever-fresh charm of her old 
memories, and the fragance of poetry which 
exhales from her ruins, hallowed by great 
deeds and by great men. ... In the secret 
heart of this young man there is one more se- 
rious thought, one profound and impetuous 
energy of feeling ; he is a Jew, and he views 
Catholicism with all the prejudices and hatred 
of his race — with a hatred at once keen, im- 
placable, and sombre/ he even avoids Rome 
altogether. Still he has come thither, in his 
own despite almost ; but he has scarcely arrived 
when he numbers the days for his departure. 
He has witnessed the moral degradation of 
his co-religionists, who are restrained to the 



76 THE CONVERSION OF 

filthiest quarter of the city — lie charges it on 
the Catholics ; and his hatred finds expression 
in bitter sarcasms, in horrible blasphemies. 
The very morning of the day fixed for his de- 
j)artiire he wrote to his nncle : " I leave this 
city with a profound horror, and curse it as I 

go " And that very day, a few hours 

later, this same young man casually enters a 
lonely church, falls on his knees overwhelmed 
and annihilated, rises bathed in tears, and 
asks for a Catholic priest, not to receive in- 
struction, but to be baptised : his conversion 
was accomplished — he had understood all. 
What, then, had taken place in this church ? 
What has he seen? what has he heard? I 
can tell you, for all Rome is vocal with it. 
But these are things belonging to an order so 
high and so holy, that it is the prerogative of 
the Church alone to utter them with the in- 
fallible warrant of her word. She will speak, 
and you will soon know all. So far as I am 
concerned, I will only relate to you to-day, 
without one touch of exaggeration, the facts 
of this conversion just as it happened, just as 
it struck me. It would be in itself an inex- 
plicable miracle, even if a miracle had not 
been its efficient cause. 

Mr. Alphonse Ratisbonne belongs to one 
of the chief Jewish families of Strasburg. 
Now, as if to accumulate moral impossibilities 
in the way of his conversion, God has per- 
mitted that its result should be obviously the 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 77 

ruin of his fairest hopes of fortune, and of the 
deepest affections of his heart. It severs the 
bonds of a love which has been already hal- 
lowed by solemn espousals. " A week since," 
he writes to his betrothed, " if any unforeseen 
calamity had compelled me to give you up, I 
could not have had the courage to do so ; I 
should have died in the effort Now, to- 
day, if my new faith is to divide us, I shall 
offer this sacrifice to God without shedding 
one tear ; and all my life long I shall pray 
that He may bless and enlighten yoa, and 
grant that we may meet in heaven." 

Alphonse Eatisbonne made his public 
abjuration on the 31st of January, in the 
church of the Gesu, in presence of Cardinal 
Patrizi. The young catechumen, clothed in a 
long robe of white silk, was placed at the bot- 
tom of the church, below the barrier which 
separated him from the holy place, in com- 
pliance with the ancient custom preserved in 
our ritual. I did not then know him; but an 
undefinable interest, excited by the miracu- 
lous circumstances of his conversion, drew me 
towards him. I got as near to him as I could, 
rather to read upon his features the impres- 
sions of his soul, than to follow the touching 
ceremony of his abjuration. The cardinal, 
having prayed awhile at the altar, and as- 
sumed his pontifical vestments, went in pro- 
cession towards the catechumen, at the bottom 
of the nave of the church. There commenced 



78 THE CONVERSION OF 

the ceremonies and exorcisms. Never had I 
so felt the Divine character of that ritual, so 
full of mysteries. Can you conceive any 
thing more thrilling than this dialogue : 

" What do you crave ?" 

" Baptism." 

"What besides?" 

"Life." 

" Do you renounce the Devil ? " 

" I renounce him." 

"Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" 

" I do believe in him." 
He, a descendant of those Jews who hanged 
Him on the wood of shame? All that is 
merely formal and outward had disappeared 
here. That firm, brief, energetic speech ; 
that decided but modest look at the bishop 
who is questioning him ; the noble firmness 
of his attitude, and the unruffled placidity of 
his features, the paleness of which was re- 
lieved by the faintest flush, — all these indi- 
cations of a resolute, thoughtful, and collected 
character brought home to me the grandeur 
of this conflict, in which the rarest and most 
testing courage, that of a profound conviction 
without enthusiasm, without an enthralling 
imagination, had conquered that which is 
mightiest and most' tenacious of life in the 
heart of man — his early faith and his first 
love. A sigh of ineffable happiness escaped 
from his breast ; a smile, like a ray of heav- 
enly beatitude, hovered around his lips, as 



MARIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 79 

he raised hie head, moist and dripping with 
the waters of Baptism. It was clear — every 
eye might see it — he had crossed a great 
gulf; he breathed, he was a Christian. 

And then every barrier of the Church fell 
down before the innocence and the faith of 
this regenerated soul. Amidst the benedic- 
tions of the enormous crowd that filled the 
nave and just opened a pathway for him as 
he passed, the young neophyte was led to 
the altar. lie there received the sacrament 
of Confirmation at the hands of the cardinal. 
As the gifts of the Holy Ghost descended, to- 
gether with the blessing of the bishop, upon 
his head, he seemed to me oppressed beneath 
the torrent of grace ; the waves of gladness 
that flowed in upon him were*too vast — came 
too suddenly, too impetuously. It seemed as 
though, before opening his heart to the heav- 
enly joys of his first communion, he needed 
time and rest to control his excess of holy 
emotion. The ceremony was suspended a 
while. A voice, well known and dear to this 
pious congregation, — almost all French, or 
Catholic strangers, to whom the glorious pop- 
ularity of our language was, like the faith, a 
common bond, — was heard celebrating the in- 
finite mercies of God, and the wondrous 
patronage of Mary, manifested in the city of 
Rome towards a son of France. The Abbe 
Dupanlonp's heart poured forth, spontane- 
ously and without effort, a stream of lofty 



80 THE CONVERSION OF 

language, with the grace and masculine en- 
ergy of a living faith, and with bursts of 
pathetic eloquence, to which his congregation 
could respond only by their tears. 

At length the holy Sacrifice of the Mass 
began. I could not remove my eyes from 
M. Ratisbonne, absorbed entirely in his ful- 
ness of joy and in the fervour of his prayer. 
I fancied I could read upon his soul the 
growing impression of the bleeding memo- 
rials of Calvary. But I cannot express my 
meaning. And how shall I speak of this new 
pasch of this new Christian ? How convey to 
you a notion of the solemn moment when the 
cardinal, tremulous with emotion, placed the 
sacred host upon his lips ? At this last, highest 
grace, the vessel of election flowed over. 
He who had been, up to this moment, so 
calm in his fervour, so collected and firm, so 
entirely master of his deep feelings, could 
not now contain the fulness of this new and 
unknowir*'bliss ; he sobbed passionately, and 
was led almost fainting from the altar to his 
assigned place. And then was illustrated, in 
its sweetest symbol, the Catholic dogma of 
the communion of saints, — that mystery of 
universal and brotherly oneness, in virtue of 
which ten thousand times ten thousand of 
every tongue and of every land, who know 
not each other's names, meet and are one in the 
mystic feast, breaking together the bread of 
life everlasting, and drinking at one chalice 



MARIE- ALrilONSE RATISBONNE. 81 

the wine of boundless infinite charity. Noble 
ladies, girls in the first bloom of youth, young 
men, and men whose names and whose deeds 
are written in their country's annals, drew 
near with one accord to the holy table, offering 
to God for the new convert their fervent com- 
munions, just as mothers would have done for 
their children, or sisters for a brother, or friend 
for beloved friend. And the people, moved by 
this spectacle, joined their prayers and bless- 
ings by words, spoken loud — words of a 
simple sweetness and charm which cannot be 
transferred from their native Italian. At 
length the Te Deum thundered forth, — no 
other word can express the electrical effect of 
that exulting shout of thanksgiving, blending 
with the noble organ and the pealing bells of the 
Gesu. It is not a hymn of the Church, grave 
and measured, but rather the living acclaim 
of an enormous multitude swaying beneath 
an overmastering religious enthusiasm. I 
pray God that the memory of what I felt du- 
ring those three hours may never be effaced 
from my heart ; an impression like that is 
undoubtedly one of the most precious boons 
that can be bestowed upon a Christian soul. 



82 THE CONVERSION OF 



LETTER 



MAKIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE 

TO M. DUFRICHE-DESGENETTES, 

Founder and Director of tJie " Archiconfrerie de Noire-Dame des 
Victoires" at Paris. 

This letter was published in the first bulletin 
of the annals of the Arehconfraternity. It was 
introduced by the cure of Notre-Bame des 
Victoires, with the following preface. 

The news of the conversion of M. Alphonse 
Ratisbonne was communicated to the Arch- 
confraternity of the Sacred Heart of Mary on 
Sunday, January 30th, 1842, at the evening 
service. It was brought by his brother, 
M. l'Abbe Theodore Ratisbonne, our sub-di- 
rector. It would be impossible to describe 
the impression produced on all present by 
this touching and interesting narrative. When 
the Abbe Ratisbonne, after having recounted 
the circumstances of this wonderful conver- 
sion added, " This Alphonse, of whom I am 
speaking to you, is my brother. . .*' the emo- 
tion of the congregation became most intense, 
and a prolonged murmur of wonder and of 
joy was heard throughout it. They had been 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 83 

marvelling at the Divine mercy, and rejoicing 
in the return of this prodigal to his lather's 
house, with the common joy of Christians; 
but at the words, " he is my brother," all the 
congregation shared the rapture of the pious 
ecclesiastic, all felt that they too had gained 
a brother. At the request of many members 
of our confraternity, we sang the Magnificat in 
thanksgiving, just before I mounted the pul- 
pit. For more than a year the family of the 
young neophyte had been the object of our 
eager desires and prayers, and, but a fortnight 
before his conversion, Alphonse had been 
again and specially commended by his brother 
to our public prayers. 

As I wished to diffuse throughout the whole 
confraternity the sacred joy which filled our 
own hearts, and as I was anxious that my ac- 
count should be scrupulously exact, I begged 
M. Marie-Alphonse Katisbonne to be kind 
enough to give me, himself, a statement of the 
circumstances of his conversion ; and I feel 
great pleasure in publishing the following ex- 
tract from the letter he wrote in reply : 

College ofJuilly, 12th April, 1842. 

My first thought and the first instinct of 
my heart, at the moment of my conversion, 
was to bury myself and my secret in the clois- 
ter, so that I might find refuge from the world, 
which could no longer understand me, and 
give myself entirely to my God, who had gi- 



84- THE CONVERSION OF 

ven me such a glimpse of the spiritual world. 
I was reluctant to speak without the permis- 
sion of a priest. He, who was to me the re- 
presentative and voice of God, commanded 
me to make known what had happened to 
me; and I did so, in so far as words enabled 
me to express my meaning. And now, after 
some weeks of retirement and retreat, I will 
try to set down a greater fulness of detail ; and 
it is fitting that sinners should give an account 
of the graces vouchsafed to them to you, M. le 
Cure — to you who have founded the Arch- 
confraternity for the conversion of sinners. 

If I had only to apprise you of the fact 
of my conversion, one single word would 
suffice — the name of Mary. But your con- 
fraternity is eager to have a full account; 
you wish to know who and what is this 
son of Abraham, who has found at Home 
life, and grace, and happiness. I will, there- 
fore, first invoke the aid of my heavenly 
Mother, and then set before you, in very 
simple words, the course and order of my 
life. p 

My family is known well enough, for its 
members are rich and generous ; and it has 
long occupied a high station in Alsace. It 
is said that my ancestors have been very 
godly men ; Christians as well as Jews have 
blessed the name of my grandfather, the 
only Jew who obtained, under Louis XYL, 
not only the right to hold property at Stras- 



MARIE-AXPHONSE KATISBONNE. 85 

burg, but a patent of nobility. Such was 
my family; but now all traditions of reli- 
gion are effaced from it. 

I began my studies at the Royal College 
of Strasburg, where I made far greater pro- 
gress in the depravation of my heart than 
in the education of my mind. 

It was in the year 1825 (I was born May 
1st, IS 11) that an unexpected event inflicted 
a heavy blow on my family. My brother 
Theodore, of whom the highest hopes were 
entertained, avowed himself a Christian ; and 
soon after, nowithstanding the grief he had 
occasioned and the earnest entreaties of our 
parents, he became a priest, and exercised 
his ministry in the same city, and before 
the very eyes of my disconsolate family. 
Young as I was, my brother's conduct 
shocked me greatly, and I conceived a violent 
hatred of his office, and of his person and 
character. Brought up amongst young Chris- 
tians, who were quite as reckless and indif- 
ferent as I was myself, I had not, up to 
that time, felt either syuq^athy or antipathy 
towards Christianity; but my brother's con- 
version, which I looked upon as an act of 
unaccountable folly, made me believe all I 
heard of the fanaticism of the Catholics, and 
I held them accordingly in great horror. 

I was about this time, withdrawn from 
college to be placed in a Protestant institu- 
tion, the magniloquent prospectus of which 



86 THE CON VERSION OF 

had dazzled my narents. The younger mem- 
bers of the great Protestant families of Alsace 
and of Germany came there, to be moulded 
upon the fashionable life of Paris, and aban- 
doned themselves to pleasures of all kinds, 
far more than to study. Nevertheless, I pre- 
sented myself for examination when I left 
this institution, and, by a piece of good luck 
I little deserved, I was admitted Bachelor 
of Arts. 

I was then sole master of my patrimony ; 
for my mother had died while I was still 
young, and my father had survived her but a 
few years. But I had a worthy uncle, the 
patriarch of the family, a second lather to me, 
who, having no children of his own, had cen- 
tred all his affection in those of his brother. 

This uncle, so well known in the financial 
world for his lofty integrity as well as for his 
extraordinary capacity, wished much to give 
me a share in the bank of which he is the 
head ; but I first of all read law at Paris, and, 
after having obtained the diploma of a licen- 
tiate and put on my advocate's gown, I was 
recalled to Strasburg by my uncle, who ex- 
erted all his influence to settle me with him- 
self. I cannot number all his cares and 
kindnesses : horses, carriages, pleasant tra- 
vels, a thousand acts of lavish affection, were 
mine, and he had not the heart to refuse me 
any thing. My uncle gave me a more posi- 
tive mark of his confidence still : he gave me 



MARIE-ALPHONSE EA11SB0NNE. 87 

the signature of the bank, and he promised 
me besides the title and the solid advantages 
of a partner — a promise which he carried into 
effect the first of January in this year, 1842. 
I was at Rome when this information reached 
me. 

My uncle had only one matter of complaint 
— my frequent journeys to Paris. You are too 
fond of the Champs- Ely sees, said he affection- 
ately to me. He was right. I loved nothing 
but pleasures ; business annoyed me, the at- 
mosphere of the office stifled me; I had a no- 
tion that people came into the world simply 
to enjoy themselves ; and, although a kind of 
natural and instinctive modesty kept me from 
baser pleasures and associates, I thought of 
nothing but fetes and rejoicings, and gave 
myself up to them with passionate ardour. 

It was fortunate that about this time a 
good work offered itself to my eager need of 
action, and I threw myself into it with all my 
heart. It was the work of the regeneration of 
the poor Israelites, as it was erroneously 
called ; for I have now learned that something 
more than money and lotteries of charity is 
requisite to regenerate a people destitute of 
religion. But 1 honestly believed in the pos- 
sibility of this renovation, and I became one 
of the most zealous members of the Society 
for the providing occupation for young Jews, 
— a society which my brother had founded at 
Strasburg fifteen years before, and which has 



SS THE CONVERSION OF 

lasted until now, notwithstanding its limited 
resources. I managed to fill its coffers, and 
fancied I had clone something very great. 

Christian charity, how thou wouldst 
smile at my lofty self-satisfaction ! The Jew 
thinks a great deal of himself when he has 
given a great deal; the Christian gives all 
and despises himself — he despises himself until 
he has given himself in addition; and when 
he has sacrified himself whole and entire, he 
despises himself still. 

Although I had no religion whatever, I 
was busy with the worldly condition of my 
co-religionists. I was a Jew by profession, 
and that is all; for I did not even believe in 
God. I never opened a religious book; and 
neither in my uncle's house nor in those of 
my brothers and sisters was there the slightest 
observance of the injunctions of Judaism. 

There was a fearful void in my heart, and 
I was not happy, though I possessed every 
thing in abundance, in profusion. Something 
was still lacking; and this something I found, 
at least so I fondly fancied; and it was thus : 

1 had a niece, the daughter of my eldest 
brother, who had been destined to me from 
our childhood. She was growing up, under 
my own eyes, in beauty and in gracefulness, 
and in her I beheld the fair promise of my fu- 
ture life, and the satisfaction of all my hopes. 
I do not think it seemly to set forth here the 
praises of her who was my betrothed. It 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 89 

would be useless to those who do not know 
her; but those who have seen her know that 
it would not be easy to imagine a young girl 
more gentle, more amiable, more charming. 
She was to me a creature apart, who seemed 
formed expressly to complete my existence: 
and when the desires of all our family, com- 
bined with our mutual symatliy and aifection, 
fixed the time of my long-wished-for marriage, 
I thought that nothing could be thenceforth 
wanting to my happiness. 

And thus, after the ceremony of our be 
trothal, I had the pleasure of seeing all 
my family overflowing with joy, and my 
sisters so happy ! 'They had but one re* 
proach to make — I loved my bride too exclu- 
sively, and they confessed their jealousy ; for 
I may say in missing, that there are few 
families so happy as mine: the most inti- 
mate and perfect union of hearts, the most 
tender affection, reigns amongst my brothers 
and sisters — an affection which verged on 
idolatry. . . . And, indeed, my sisters are so 
good, so loving, and so lovely. . . . Why, alas, 
are they not Christians ? 

There was only one member of our family 
who was hateful to me — my brother Theo- 
dore. And yet he loved us well; but his 
soutane repelled me, his presence oppressed me 
with gloom, his grave and serious conversation 
excited my wrath. About a year before my 
betrothal I had found it impossible to restrain 
S* 



90 THE CONVERSION OF 

my feelings, and I expressed them to him in 
a letter, which was intended to sever all con- 
nection between ns for ever. The occasion 
was this. A child was lying in the agony 
of death ; my brother Theodore had the assu- 
rance to ask permission to baptise it, and he 
would probably have succeeded, if I had not 
been informed of his intention. I looked on 
it as an unworthy and dishonourable attempt ; 
Iwote to the priest tq try his strength with 
men and not with children; and 1 accom- 
panied these words with so many invectives 
and threatenings, that I am even now as- 
tonished that my brother did not answer me 
a single word. lie continued his relations 
with the rest of the family ; but I would 
never see him again, and I cherished a blind 
and bitter hatred against priests, and churches, 
and convents, and especially against the Je- 
suits, whose very name goaded me to frenzy. 
Fortunately my brother left Strasburg, 
and so gratified my most earnest wish. Tie 
was summoned to Paris, to Notre Dame des 
Victoires, where, he said as he bade us fare- 
well, lie should not cease to pray for the con- 
version of his brothers and sisters. His 
departure relieved me of a heavy weight ; I 
even yielded so far to the entreaties of my 
family as to write him a few words of apology 
on the occasion of my betrothal. He an- 
swered my letter affectionately, and com- 
mended to my care some few poor people in 



MARIE- ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 91 

whom he felt interested ; and I gave them 
some trifling sum. 

After this sort of reconciliation I had no 
further connection with Theodore, and I had 
altogether ceased to think of him ; I had for- 
gotten him quite. . . and he, the while, was 
praying for me ! 

I ought to mention here a kind of revo- 
lution in my religious notions which took 
place about the time of the ceremony of my 
betrothal. As I have said, I believed in 
nothing ; and in this complete nullity, this 
negation of all faith, I found myself perfectly 
in harmony with my young friends, whether 
Catholic or Protestant. But the look of my 
bride awakened within me a mysterious sense 
of human dignity and worth ; I began to 
believe in the immortality of the soul ; more 
than that, I began, by a kind of instinct, to 
pray to God ; I thanked Him for my hap- 
piness : and for all that I was not happy. . . 
I could not analyse and account for my feel- 
ings ; I looked on my sweet bride as my good 
angel ; I often told her so ; and, indeed, the 
thought of her raised my heart towards a God 
whom I knew not, Whom I had never before 
invoked. 

It was deemed right, by reason of the 
tender age of my bride, to postpone our mar- 
riage. She was only sixteen years old. I 
was to undertake a voyage of pleasure to be- 
guile the time of expectation. I scarcely 



92 THE CONVERSION OF 

knew whither to direct my wanderings ; one 
of my sisters, who is settled in Paris, wished 
me to remain with her ; a dear friend wanted 
to take me off to Spain. I declined the in- 
vitations of some others, who made me very 
attractive propositions. I resolved, at length, 
to go straight to Naples, to pass the winter at 
Malta for the benefit of my rather delicate 
health, and then to return home by way of the 
East. I got letters of introduction for Constan- 
tinople even ; and I set ont about the end of 
November, 18-11, intending to return in the 
spring of 1812. 

My leave-taking was very melancholy. I 
left behind me my beloved bride, an uncle 
whose whole affection rested on me, sisters, 
brothers, nieces, whose society was my most 
valued delight ; I left also those industrial 
schools, those poor Jews with whom I was so 
actively employed, and the numerous friends 
who loved me — friends of my childhood, 
whom I could not leave without shedding 
tears ; for indeed I loved them, and love them 
still. . . . 

To set out alone on so long a vo} r age! the 
mere thought threw me into a state of pro- 
found sadness. But, said I to myself, per- 
haps God will send me some friend on. my 
way! 

I recollect two singular incidents which 
marked the days preceding my departure, 
and which now strike me forcibly. I wished 



MARIE-ALPHONSE EATISBOJSTNK. 93 

belore leaving, to affix my signature to a 
large number of receipts connected with the 
subscriptions to the Jewish industrial society 

I dated them in advance January 

15th, and by dint of writing this date so many 
times, I became weary of it, and said, as I 
laid down my pen: 

"God only knows where I shall be on the 
15th of January, and whether that day may 
not be the day of my death." 

On that day I arrived at Rome, and I re- 
gard it as the first dawn of my new life. 

Another circumstance that interested me 
was the meeting of several distinguished 
Jews to consider the means of reforming the 
worship of Judaism, and bringing it more 
into harmony witli the spirit of the age. I 
went to the meeting, at which every one gave 
his opinion on the improvements that were 
suggested. There were as many opinions as 
persons ; there was a great deal of discussion ; 
they took into account the convenience of 
man, the events of the times, the axioms ot 
public opinion, all the ideas of modern civili- 
sation : every thing was thought of and 
pondered, one only was forgotten — the law of 
God. That did not seem to come into the 
question at all ; I cannot remember that the 
name of God was mentioned once, or that of 
Moses, or the existence of the Bible. 

My own private opinion was, that they 
should allow all religious forms to die quietly 



94 THE CONVERSION OF 

out ; that they need not have recourse either 
to books or to men, but that every one should 
be left free to express and practise his faitli 
in his own fashion. This opinion proves my 
lofty wisdom in matters of religion. I had 
made progress as you will see. The meeting 
broke up without coming to any decision. 

But a Jew, more sensible than I, had 
given utterance to a sentiment so remarkable, 
that I will give it word for word : " We must 
make haste to abandon this old temple, whose 
crumbling walls are parting on all sides, un- 
less we wish to be buried beneath its ruins ;" 
words full of truth, words which every Jew 
of our times murmurs to himself alone. But, 
alas, eighteen centuries have passed since 
they abandoned their ancient temple, and 
they will not enter that new temple whose 
gates are open to them by day and by night! 

At length I set out. As I left Strasburg 
I shed many tears; I was disquieted by a 
crowd of fears, by a thousand strange pre- 
sentiments. When we stopped to change 
horses, I was roused from my reverie by cries 
of joy and the sound of music. It was a rustic 
wedding — the happy, noisy villagers were just 
issuing from the church — flutes and fiddles 
were going vigorously ; the crowd came round 
my carriage, as though to invite me to share 
their joy. "It will be my turn soon," lex- 
claimed. And this thought restored my cheer- 
fulness. 



MARIE- ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 95 

I spent some days at Marseilles, where 
my friends and relatives received me with 
open arms. I could scarcely tear myself 
from all this elegant hospitality. And. truly 
it needs an effort to leave France, when one 
leaves also a whole life of love, and of loving 
memories and associations. Besides the ties 
which bound me to her shores, the sea itself 
seemed to oppose my departure ; it rolled 
along its mighty waves to bar my progress ; 
but all these obstacles were swept away by 
the steamer which took me to Naples. I was 
soon able to enjoy the magnificent type of 
inimity above me and around me ; but what 
struck me more than sea or sky was man, 
that frail creature who braves all dangers, 
and masters the elements themselves. My 
pride was loftier than the rolling waves, 
more tenacious of its aims, and far less 
easily subjugated. 

The boat touched at Civita Yecchia on its 
way to Naples. As we entered the harbour 
the sound of cannon greeted our ears. I asked, 
with a spiteful curiosity, the motive of this 
warlike sound on the peaceful territory of the 
Pope. I received for answer, " It is the feast 
of the Conception of Mary." I shrugged my 
shoulders and would not land. 

The next day we reached Naples. The 
sun was shining gloriously, and producing 
brilliant effects on the smoke of Vesuvius. 
Never had I been so dazzled by any scene of 



yb THE CONVERSION OF 

nature.' I saw before me the reality of those 
glowing images of the heavens and the sea 
with which artists 'and poets had stored my 
fancy. 

I passed a month at Naples, that I might 
see and describe every thing. I wrote bitter 
things against the religion and the priests, 
who seemed to me so out of keeping with that 
magnificent country. Oh, with what blasphe- 
mies did I fill my journal! And if I speak 
of them now, it is that you may see how dark 
and evil was my soul then. I wrote to Stras- 
burg that I had drunk some lachryma Chrlsti 
on. Vesuvius to the health of the abbe Eatis- 
bonne, and that tears like that did me good 
too. I cannot transcribe the horrible witti- 
cisms that I permitted myself to write. 

My betrothed asked me if I agreed with 
those who said : " See Naples and die.'' No, 
I replied ; but see Naples and live ; live to see 
it again. Such was my state of mind. 

I had no wish to go to Rome, although 
two friends of my family, whom I saw fre- 
quently, urged me strongly to do so ; I mean 
M. Coulman, a Protestant, and formerly de- 
2?ute of Strasburg, and Baron Rothschild, 
whose family lavished on me every kind of 
attention and of gratification. I could not 

yield to their persuasions My betrothed 

wished me to go direct to Malta ; and she sent 
me a recommendation from my physician that 
I should spend the winter there, and carefully 



MAltIE»ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 97 

avoid Rome, because of the malignant fevers 
which, he said, prevailed there. 

These reasons would have prevented my 
going to Rome, even if I had placed this jour- 
ney on my original programme. I thought I 
might possibly go there on my return, and I 
took my place in the Mongibello for Sicily. 
A friend accompanied me on board of the 
vessel, and promised to return and bid me 
farewell before we started. He came, but did 
not find me. If M. de Rechecourt should 
ever learn the reason of my breach of en- 
gagement, he will be able to account for my 
apparent incivility, and will, I am sure, for- 
give me. 

M. Conlman had introduced me to an amia- 
ble and estimable man who was going to 
Malta. I was so pleased at this, that I said 
to myself: "This is surely the friend God has 
sent me." 

However, the first day of the new year 
arrived, and the vessel had not left. It was a 
sad day to me. I was alone at Naples ; no 
one to congratulate me and wish me well, no 
one to press to my heart. I thought of my 
family, of the festivity and joy with which 
my uncle always kept that clay; I began to 
shed tears, and the lively gaiety of the Neapo- 
litans deepened my sadness. I went out, to 
shake off my importunate melancholy, and 
followed mechanically in the train of the 
crowd. I reached the 2^ ace i 11 front of the 
6 



98 THE CONVERSION OF 

palace, and found myself, I know not how, at^ 
the door of a church. I went in. I think a 
priest was saying Mass. I remained there, 
leaning against a pillar, and my heart seemed 
to open and expand in a new atmosphere. I 
prayed after my own fashion, without taking 
any notice of what was going on around me ; 
I prayed for my betrothed, for my uncle, 
for my deceased father, for the loving mo- 
ther who had been taken from me so early, 
for all who were dear to me ; and I asked of 
God some inspiration, some intimation of His 
will which might guide me in my projects 
for improving the condition of the Jews, — 
projects which haunted me incessantly. 

My sadness passed away, like a cloud 
which the wind breaks up and disperses ; and 
my heart was filled with an unutterable calm- 
ness, with a consolation such as I should have 
felt if a voice had said to me : " Your prayer 
is heard." Yes, it was heard, — heard far 
beyond all expectation ; for on the last day 
of that same month I was to be baptised in 
a church at Rome ! 

But how did I get to Rome ? 

I do not know, nor can I account for it in 
any way. I almost fancy I must have missed 
my way ; for instead of going to the bu- 
reau of the Palermo boats, as I intended when 
I left my lodging, I found myself in that of 
the diligences for Rome. I told M. Yigne, 
the friend who was to accompany me to 



MARIE-ALPHONSE KATISLONNE. 99 

Malta, that I could not resist the temptation 
of making a short expedition to Rome, but 
that I would certainly be at Naples so as to 
leave with him on the 20th of January. I 
was wrong to pledge myself thus ; for God 
disposes ; and that 20th of January was des- 
tined to mark a very different crisis in my 
life. I left Naples on the 5th, and reached 
Rome on the 6th, the feast of the Epiphany. 
I had for my fellow-traveller an Englishman, 
named Marshall, whose original conversation 
amused me much. 

Home did not at first produce on me the 
impression I had expected. And I was so 
pressed for time, that I eagerly devoured 
ruins, ancient and modern, with the avidity of 
a thorough tourist. I tilled my imagination and 
my journal with a confused medley of remi- 
niscences. I visited with a monotonous ad- 
miration galleries, churches, catacombs, and 
all the innumerable magnificences of Rome. I 
was most frequently accompanied by my En- 
glish friend, and by a valet cle place ; I have 
no notion what religion they were of, for nei- 
ther of them gave any sign of Christianity in 
the churches, and I believed I behaved far 
more reverently than they did. 

On the 8th of January, as I was going my 
round of sight-seeing, I heard some one call- 
ing me in the street; it was my old friend 
Gustave de Bussieres. I was very happy to 
meet him, for my isolation had become pain- 



100 TIIE CON VERSION OF 

ful to me. We went to cline with my friend's 
father ; and in that agreeable circle I felt some 
measure of the joy with which one greets any 
memorial of one's own country in a strange 
land. 

As I entered the drawing-room, M. Theo- 
dore de Bussieres, the eldest son of this ho- 
nourable family, was leaving it. I did not 
know him personally, but I knew that he was 
my brother's friend and namesake ; I knew 
that he had deserted Protestantism and be- 
come a Catholic, and this was quite enough 
to inspire me with a profound antipathy to 
him. I fancied that this feeling was recipro- 
cals However, as M. Theodore de Bussieres 
was already well known by his published vo- 
lume of travels in Sicily and in the East, I 
was very glad to ask him some questions be- 
fore starting on the same track ; and whether 
on this account, or from mere civility, I signi- 
fied my intention of paying him a visit. He 
answered me very kindly, and added, that he 
had just received a letter from my brother the 
abbe, and that he would give me his new ad- 
dress. " I will gladly receive it," said I, "al- 
though I shall not need it." 

There our conversation ended ; and when 
he had left, I felt annoyed at the obligation I 
had imposed on myself to make a useless visit 
and waste my very precious time. 

I continued running about Kome all day 
long except two hours in the morning which 



MARIE- ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 101 

I spent with Gustave ; and in the evening I 
took my ease, either at the theatre or at some 
party. My conversations with Gustave were 
very animated; for the intercourse of two old 
schoolfellows furnishes inexhaustible store of 
amusing and interesting souvenirs. But he 
was a Protestant, with all the zeal and enthu- 
siasm of the pietists of Alsace. He talked 
largely of the superiority of his sect to all 
other Christian communities, and was very 
eager to convert me ; and I was much 
amused, as I had fancied that the mania of 
proselytisrn was peculiar to Catholics. I 
generally evaded his assaults by some merry 
jest; but once, to console him for the fail- 
ure of his attempts, I promised him, that 
if ever I took it into my head to be con- 
verted, I would turn pietist; and he, on his 
part, promised that he would be present at 
my marriage, in the August following. All 
his efforts to detain me at Rome were inef- 
fectual. Others of my friends, M. Edmund 
Ilumann and Alfred de Lotzbeck, joined 
with him in begging me to remain in Rome 
for the Carnival. But I could not consent; 
I feared I should grieve and distress my 
betrothed, and M. vigne expected me at 
Naples in time to start with him on the 
20th of January. 

I was making the best use of the short 
time that remained, and went to the Capitol 
to visit the church of Aracoeli. The impos- 
9* 



102 THE CONVERSION OF 

ing appearance of tins church, the solemn 
chants which were echoing along its vast 
nave, the historical recollections awakened 
in me by the very soil I was treading, — all 
combined to produce a profound impression 
upon me. I was moved, penetrated, trans- 
ported ; and my valet de place, noticing my 
emotion, told me that he had frequently seen 
strangers affected in a similar way in that 
church. 

As we came down from the Capitol, my 
cicerone led me through the Ghetto, the 
quarter assigned to the Jews. There I felt 
an emotion of an entirely different kind — 
mingled pity and indignation. What, I ex- 
claimed, as I beheld that miserable sight, 
is this that Roman charity of which so much 
is said? I shuddered with horror, and I 
asked myself whether a whole nation de- 
served to be the victims of such barbarous 
treatment and of such endless prejudices, 
simply for having killed one man eighteen 
hundred years ago ! Alas, I knew not then 
who this One Man was — I knew not the 
cry of blood which this people had uttered 
— a cry which I dare not repeat here, and 
which I cannot bear to recall. Rather would 
I dwell upon that other cry, wafted to hea- 
ven from the cross, Father, forgive them; 
for they know not ichat they do ! 

I described all that I had seen and felt 
to my family. I remember having written, 



MAKIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 103 

that I preferred being of the number of the 
oppressed to being in the camp of the op- 
pressors. I went back again to the Capitol, 
and found the church of Aracoeli in a great 
bustle of preparation for some grand cere- 
mony. I asked the object of it, and was 
told that two Jews, named Constantini, of 
Ancona, were going to be baptised. I can- 
not describe the indignation I felt on re- 
ceiving this information ;mnd when my guide 
asked me if I should like to be present I 
exclaimed: "What! /assist at so infamous 
a spectacle! No, no; I should not be able 
to restrain myself from making a desperate 
onslaught on both priests and victims." 

I may say, without exaggeration, that I 
never felt so tierce a hatred towards Chris- 
tianity as after that visit to the Ghetto. 
The stream of my mockery and blasphemy 
flowed incessantly and inexhaustibly. 

However, I had a few farewell visits to 
make, and my promise to Baron de Bus- 
sieres occurred to me continually as an 
awkward obligation gratuitously taken on 
myself. Most fortunately I had not asked 
his address, and I resolved to make this 
circumstance my excuse for not performing 
my promise. 

It was now the 15th, and I went to take 
my place for Naples ; my departure was 
fixed for the 17th, at three a.m. I had two 
days left, and I employed them, as usual, 



104: THE CONVERSION OF 

in running about. But, as I was coming 
out of a book-shop in which I had been 
looking over some works on Constantinople, 
I met a servant of M. cle Bussieres senior, 
on the Corso. He saluted me in passing, 
and I stopped him to ask the address of 
M. Theodore de Bussieres : he replied, with 
an Alsatian accent : Piazza Nicosia, No. 38. 

And now, whether I liked it or not, I was 
committed to this ^jsit. I put it off to the 
last moment, and at length set off, carrying 
in my hand a card on which I had written p. 
p. c. I found out this Piazza Nicosia, after 
a great many turns and windings, and at 
length readied No. 38. It was the very next 
door to the bureau at which I had taken my 
place for Naples the same day. I had made 
a good round to reach the point from which 
I had started — type of many a journey of 
life on earth ! But from that point I set forth 
on a journey of which I little thought ! 

My reception at the house of M. de Bus- 
sieres was annoying. Instead of simply 
taking my card, the servant suddenly an- 
nounced me, and introduced me into the 
drawing-room. I concealed my vexation as 
well as I could beneath a civil smile, and I 
took a chair near Madame de Bussieres, who 
was sitting with her two daughters, graceful 
and gentle as the angels that Raphael painted. 
Our conversation was at first very general 
and unmeaning ; but it soon began to take the 



MARIE- ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 105 

tone and hue of the deep passion with which 
I related my impressions of Rome. 

I looked on M. de Bussieres as a devot, in 
the illnatured sense of the word, and I was 
very glad to have the opportunity ot\ teasing 
him about the Jews of Home. It was a re- 
lief to me 'to do so ; but my complaints of 
course led our conversation upon religious 
ground. M. de Bussieres spoke to me of the 
majesty and grandeur of Catholicism; and I 
replied with irony, and some of the many 
imputations I had either heard or read ; but 
I could not he4p checking my impious frenzy, 
out of respect for Madame de Bussieres and 
the two dear children who were playing at 
her side. "Well," said M. de Bussieres, 
" since you detest superstition, and profess 
yourself so very liberal in point of doctrine 
— since you are so enlightened an esprit fort 
— have you the courage to submit yourself 
to a very simple and innocent test ?" 

" What test ?" 

" Only to wear a little something I w r ill 
give you ; look, it is a medal of the Blessed 
Virgin. It seems very ridiculous, does it 
not'/ But, I assure you, I attach great value 
and efficacy to this little medal." 

This proposal, I confess, astonished me by 
its puerile oddity. I did not expect such a 
bathos. My first impulse was to laugh and 
shrug my shoulders ; but it struck me that 
this scene could furnish me a delicious chap- 



106 THE CONVERSION OF 

ter for my journal; and I consented to take 
the medal, that I might give it to my be- 
trothed as a confirmation of my story. No 
sooner said than done. The medal was 
passed round my neck, not without difficulty, 
however, for the ribbon was rather too short. 
At length we succeeded ; I had the medal on 
my heart, and I exclaimed with a hearty 
laugh, " Ha, ha, here I am, a Catholic, apos- 
tolic and Roman !" 

It was the devil prophesying by my 
mouth. 

M. de Bussieres felt a childlike pleasure 
in his victory, and was eager to grasp all its 
advantages. "JN r o\v," said he, "you must 
perfect the test; you must say every night 
and morning the Memorare, a very short and 
very efficacious prayer which S. Bernard ad- 
dressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary." 

" What do you mean, with your Memo- 
rare f " I exclaimed ; " come, let us have 
done with this folly." 

The name of S. Bernard reminded me of 
my brother, who had written the life of this , 
great saint. I had never read his book ; and 
this association kindled afresh all my antip- 
athy to proselytism, Jesuitism, and all those 
whom I called hypocrites and apostates. 

I begged M. de Bussieres to drop the sub- 
ject ; and I said, with a smile of contempt, 
that I regretted my not having a Hebrew 



MARIE- ALPHOJSTSE RATISBONNE. 107 

prayer to offer him in return : but I bad not 
one, and could not recollect one. 

However, he persisted ; he said that by 
refusing to recite this short prayer I made 
the test useless, and that I proved thereby the 
reality of the wilful obstinacy with which the 
Jews were reproached. I did not wish to at- 
tach too much importance to the matter, and 
so I said : " WeU, then, I promise you to say 
this prayer. Anyhow, if it does me no good, 
it cannot do me any harm." And M. de 
Bussieres went to look for it, and gave it to 
me, begging me to copy it for him. I con- 
sented, on condition that I might keep the 
original, and give him my copy. I had no 
other thought than to enrich my journal 
with this additional pifcce justificative. 

And now we were both satisfied. Our 
conversation seemed to me whimsical and 
very amusing. I took my departure, and 
spent the evening at the theatre, thinking no 
more either of my medal or of the Memorare. 
But when I came home I found a note from 
M. de Bussieres, who had called to return my 
visit, begging me to see him once more before 
I left Rome. I had to return his Memorare : 
and as I was to leave in the morning, I 
packed my trunks and made all my prepa- 
rations, and then I sat down and copied the 
prayer, Memorare, iriissima Virgo. ... I 
wrote these words of S. Bernard mechanically, 
without thinking of their meaning. I was 



108 THE CONVERSION OF 

very tired ; it was very late, and I needed 
rest. 

The next day, the 16th of January, I got 
my passport signed, and completed all my 
preparations ; but as I walked along I could 
not help repeating the words of the Memorare. 
Whence was it, O my God, that these words 
had taken so firm, so deep hold on my mind? 
1 could not put them away ; they returned 
importunately upon me. I said them over 
and over again, just as one hums a tune 
which haunts one involuntarily and without 
conscious effort. 

About eleven o'clock I called on M. de 
Bussieres, to return to him his tenacious and 
peremptory prayer. I talked to him about 
my proposed travels in the East, and he gave 
me much excellent advice. " But," said he 
suddenly, " it is strange that you persist in 
leaving Rome at the very time when people 
are coming from all parts for the great cere- 
monies at St. Peter's. Perhaps you may 
never have the chance again ; and you will 
be sorry to have lost an opportunity which so 
many seek with eager curiosity." 

I replied that my place was taken and 
paid for; that I had written to inform my 
family of my departure ; that I expected 
letters at Palermo ; that it was now too late 
to think of changing my plans, and that my 
mind was made up. Our conversation was 
interrupted by the postman, who brought a 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 101) 

letter from my brother, the Abbe Ratisbonne. 
He showed me the letter ; but it was quite 
devoid of interest to me, as it related to a 
work which M. de Bnssieres was publishing 
in Paris. My brother did not even know 
that I w T as in Rome ; but this unexpected ep- 
isode threatened to close my visit, as I was 
eager to avoid every thing that could remind 
me of my brother. 

Nevertheless, I was induced, by some in- 
comprehensible influence, to prolong my stay 
at Rome. I granted to the urgency of a 
man whom I scarcely knew, what I had 
obstinately refused to my most intimate friends 
and companions. 

And what, O my God, what was that irre- 
sistible impulse which led me to do what I 
kad so firmly resolved not to do % "Was it not 
a continuation of the same sweet force which 
brought me from Strasburg to Italy, notwith- 
standing my tempting invitations to Paris 
and to Valencia ? — which led me from JSTaples 
to Rome, in spite of my firm determination 
to go straight to Sicily? — which at Rome 
compelled me, on the eve of my departure, 
to pay a visit which annoyed me, while I 
neglected others which I should have liked ? 
O wonderful leadings of Providence ? There 
is a mysterious influence which goes with 
us all along the course of our life. I had 
received the name of Tobias together with 
that of Alphonse. I had quite forgotten my 
10 



110 THE CONVERSION OF 

name ; but the unseen angel had not forgotten 
me ; he was the true and helpful friend 
whom God had sent me — but?I knew him not. 
Alas, how many are there in the world who 
know not the celestial guide of their journey, 
and who resist his gentle voice ! 

I had no wish to spend the Carnival in 
Rome, but I did wish to see the Pope ; and 
M. de Bussieres had assured me that I 
should see him very soon at St. Peter's. 
We took several rambles together. We 
talked over every thing we saw — monu- 
ments, pictures, manners and customs : but 
religion contrived to mix itself with every 
thing. M. de Bussieres introduced it with 
such charming simplicity, enforced it with so 
keen and ardent a zeal, that I often said to 
myself, that if any thing could disgust a nu*i 
with religion, it was the very importunity 
with which his conversion was sought. My 
natural gaiety led me to turn the most serious 
subjects into ridicule, and the light flashes of 
my fancy too often deepened into the fiendish 
glare of blasphemy. Even now I shudder at 
thought of those days. 

And yet M. de Bussieres was uniformly 
calm and indulgent, even though he could not 
conceal his grief. He even said once : " In 
spite of your rage, I have a sure conviction 
that you will be a Christian one day ; for there 
is in you a groundwork of rectitude which 
comforts me when I think of you, and per- 



MARIE-ALPHONSE BATiSBONNE. ill 

suades me that you will be enlightened, even 
though an angel from heaven be needed for 
that end." 

" Ha, well and good," said I ; " for else the 
matter would not be easy to manage." 

As we passed the Scala Santa, M. de Bus- 
sieres was seized with a lit of enthusiasm, lie 
rose up in the carriage, uncovered his head, 
and said in a tone of fervour : " Hail, Scala 
Santa! here is a sinner who will one day 
mount you on his knees! " 

It would be utterly impossible to express 
the effect produced on me by this unexpected 
movement, this extraordinary honour paid to 
some old steps. I laughed at it as at some- 
thing hopelessly, grotescpiely mad ; and as, a 
short time after, we drove through the charm- 
ing gardens of the Villa Wolkonski, I rose and 
parodied his apostrophe by saying : " Hall, 
true marvels of God's power! It is before 
you that I kneel in homage, and not before 
an old staircase ! " 

These drives were repeated on the two fol- 
lowing days, and lasted about two hours each. 
On the 19th, I saw M. de Bussieres again, but 
he seemed sad and dejected. I withdrew from 
a motive of delicacy, without inquiring the 
cause of his sadness. Indeed, I did not learn 
this until the next day at noon, in the church 
of S. Andrea delle Fratte. 

I was to leave on the 22d of January ; for 
I had a second time taken my place for ]S T a- 



112 THE CONVERSION OF 

pies. The engagements of M. de Bussieres 
seemed to have diminished his zeal for my 
conversion, and I fancied he had forgotten all 
about his miraculous medal ; but still I kept 
on muttering to myself, though with an in- 
conceivable impatience, that everlasting im- 
portunate invocation of St. Bernard. 

In the middle of the night before iha 20th 
of January, I awoke suddenly, and saw before 
me a large black cross, of a peculiar form, 
and without the figure of our Lord. I made 
many attempts to get rid of this image, but I 
could not succeed ; however I turned, there it 
was always before me. I cannot say how 
long this lasted, for I fell asleep at length ; 
and when I awoke in the' morning I thought 
no more of it. 

I had to write several letters, and I re- 
member that one of them, written to the 
younger sister of my betrothed, ended with 
the words, " que Dieu vous garde" — may God 
protect you ! Some little time after I received 
a letter from my bride, dated that same 20th 
of January, and ending with the same words, 
" que Dieu vous garde ! " And, indeed, that 
day was under the especial care and guar- 
dianship of God. 

Yet, if any one had said to me that morn- 
ing, "You have risen a Jew; you will lie 
down a Christian, ..." I should have looked 
on him as hopelessly, ludicrously mad. 

This Thursday, January 20th,' alter having 



MARIE- ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 113 

taken breakfast at my hotel, and earned my 
letters to the post, I went to call on my friend 
Gustavo, the pietist, who had just returned 
from a shooting excursion which had taken 
him for some days from Rome. He was sur- 
prised to see me still in Home ; I told him my 
motive for remaining was to see the Pope. 
" But I shall leave without seeing him after 
all, I said ; for lie took no part in the cere- 
mony of the (Jathedra Petri, although I had 
been led to hope be would do so." 

Gustave consoled me ironically by speaking 
of another ceremony, and a very curious one, 
he said, which was to take place, I think, at 
S. Maria Maggiore. He alluded to the bless- 
ing of the animals; and thereupon followed a 
shower of jests and sarcasms, just such as you 
can imagine a Jew and a Protestant would 
utter. 

We parted about eleven o'clock, after mak- 
ing an appointment for the next day to see a 
picture which had been painted for our con- 
try man, Baron de Lotzbeck. I went oil to a 
cafe, in the Piazza di Spagna to look at the 
newspapers ; and I had scarcely entered it 
when M. Edmond Ilumann sat down at my 
side, and we talked very gaily about PaYis, 
and the line arts and politics. Soon another 
friend accosted me ; he was a Protestant, 
M. Alfred de Lotzbeck, with whom I held a 
conversation more frivolous still. We talked 
of hunting, of all kinds of pleasures, of the 
10* 



114 THE CONVERSION OF 

mirth of the Carnival, of the brilliant soiree 
given the evening before by the Duke de Tor- 
Ionia. ISTor did we forget the fete's of my ap- 
proaching marriage, to which I invited M. de 
Lotzbeck, who promised faithfully to be pre- 
sent. 

If at that moment — it was noon— a third 
person had come up to me, and had said, 
u Alphonse, in a quarter of an hour you will 
be adoring Jesus Christ, your God and your 
Saviour; you will be prostrate in a poor 
church; you will be smiting your breast at 
the feet of a priest in a convent of Jesuits, 
where you will spend the Carnival in prepar- 
ing for your baptism; and you will feel ready 
to offer yourself in sacrifice for the Catholic 
faith ; you will renounce the world, its pomps, 
its pleasures ; your fortune, your hopes, your 
bright glad future ; and if necessary, you will 
renounce your betrothed also, and the love of 
your family, the esteem of your friends, the 
attachment of the Jews ; . . . and you will 
have but one aspiration, to follow Jesus 
Christ, and to bear His cross even unto 
death ; . . ." — I say that if some prophet had 
uttered before me a prediction like this, 1 
should have thought that there could be only 
one man more mad than he, the man who 
could believe in the possibility of any thing 
so absurd. And yet it is this absurdity and 
folly which compose now my wisdom and my 
happiness. 



MARIE- ALPH0NSE EATISBONNE. 115 

As I left the cafe, I met the carriage of 
M. Theodore de Bussieres. He stopped, and 
asked me to go with him for a drive. The 
weather was magnificent, and I accepted his 
invitation with pleasure. But M. de Bus- 
sieres asked my permission to stop a lew mi- 
nutes at the church of S. Andrea delle Fratte, 
which was close by, as he had some little 
business there. He asked me to wait for him 
in the carriage ; but I preferred getting out to 
look round the little church. They were busy 
with preparations for a funeral, and I inquired 
the name of the deceased person for whom 
these honours were intended. M. de Bus- 
sieres replied, "It is one of my friends, Count 
de Laferronnays; his sudden death is the 
cause of the depression of spirits you may 
have observed in me the last day or two." 

I did not know M. de Laferronnays, I had 
never even seen him ; and so I felt nothing 
more than that vague kind of sorrow which 
one always feels at hearing of a sudden death. 
M. de Bussieres left me to make some ar- 
rangements about the tribune that was to 
be set apart for tiie family of the deceased. 
" I shall not tax your patience long," said 
he ; " I shall not be away more than a few 
minutes." 

The church of S. Andrea delle Fratte is 
small, poor, and almost deserted ; I think I 
was almost the only person in it, and there 
was no work of art to attract my attention. 



116 THE CONVERSION OF 

I was looking round mechanically, without 
any definite thought or purpose ; I remem- 
ber only a black dog, which bounded and 
jumped before me as I moved about.... 
Suddenly the dog disappeared, the whole 
church disappeared; I saw nothing fur- 
ther, ... or rather, O my God, I saw one 
only object! 

And how should I speak of it? Ah, no, 
no words of man can even attempt to utter 
the unutterable ; all description, how sublime 
soever, must of necessity be only a degrada- 
tion of the ineffable reality. 

I lay there, prostrate, bathed in tears, my 
heart completely absorbed and lost, when 
M. de Bussieres recalled me to life. I could 
not answer his eager hurried questions ; but 
at length I grasped the medal which I wore 
in my bosom ; I kissed with fervent emotion 
the image of the Virgin, radiant with grace. 
Oh, yes, it was indeed her very self! 

I knew not where I was ; I knew not 
whether I was Alphonse Ratisbonne or not ; 
I was so entirely changed, that I did not know 
myself. ... I seemed to seek to identify my- 
self, and to fail in the effort;... the most 
glowing joy pervaded my heart; I could not 
speak, I could reveal nothing ; I felt within 
me something so awful and so sacred, that I 
asked for a priest. ... I was taken to one, and 
it was only at his positive command that I 



MARIE- ALPHONSE EATISBONNE. 117 

spoke as well as I could, on my knees, and 
with a palpitating heart. 

My first utterance was an expression of grat- 
itude to M. de Laferronnays and to the Arch- 
confraternity of Notre-Dame des Yictoires. 
I knew intuitively that M. de Laferronnays 
had prayed for me." I cannot tell how I knew 
it, any more than I can account for the truths 
of which I had suddenly gained both the 
knowledge and the belief. All I can say is, 
that the moment when the Blessed Virgin 
made a sign with her hand, the veil fell from 
my eyes ; not one veil only, but all the veils 
which were wrapped around me disappeared, 
just as snow melts beneath the rays of the 
sun. 

I came forth from a tomb, from an abyss of 
darkness ; and I was living, perfectly, energet- 
ically living. . . . and yet I shed tears. I saw 
before me the fearful miseries from which I 
had been rescued by the mercy of God ; I 
shuddered at the sight of my innumerable 
sins, and I was stupefied, melted, almost 
crushed by a sense of wonder and of grati- 
tude. ... I thought of my brother with a joy 
beyond words ; but tears of compassion were 



* M. de Laferronnays died suddenly on the evening of the 
17th of January, 1842, after a life of edifying and consistent 
piety The day before he had dined at Prince Borghese's. 
and M de Bussieres had commended the young Jew, in whom 
he felt so much interested, to his prayers. M. de Laferronnays 
manifested a singular interest in this conversion. 



118 THE CONVERSION OP 

mingled with my tears of love. Alas, that so 
many should go quietly down into this yawn- 
ing abyss with their eyes closed by pride or 
by indifference . . . should go down and be 
swallowed up of this horrible darkness... and 
then, my family, my betrothed, my poor sis- 
ters ! O torturing anxiety! My thoughts 
were of you, O ye beloved ones, — my first 
prayers were for you ! . . . And are you never 
to raise your eyes towards the Saviour of the 
world, whose blood hath blotted out original 
sin ? O, how foul is the blot of that stain ! 
how completely it obliterates every trace by 
which we might recognise the creature that 
was made in the image of God ! 

I am asked how I attained a knowledge of 
these truths, since it is well known that I 
never opened a religious book, had never read 
a page of the Bible, and that the dogma of 
original sin, which is either denied or utterly 
forgotten by the modern Jews, had never for 
a single moment occupied my thoughts, — 
indeed, I doubt whether I had ever heard the 
words which express it. How, then, did I 
arrive at a knowledge of it ? I know not. All 
that I know is, that when I entered that 
church I was profoundly ignorant of every 
thing, and that when I came out I saw every 
thing clearly and distinctly. The only expla- 
nation I can suggest is, that I was like a man 
suddenly roused from slumber, or rather, like 
a man born blind, whose eyes are suddenly 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 119 

opened ; — he sees indeed, but he can give no 
definition of that light which enlightens him, 
and in which he beholds the objects of his 
wondering gaze. And if we cannot explain 
the light of nature, how should we be able to 
explain that light which is in reality the very 
truth itself? I think I state the precise truth 
wdien I say that I knew not the letter, but that 
I grasped fully the inner meaning and the 
spirit of the Catholic dogmas. I rather felt 
than saw them ; and I felt them by •the inde- 
scribable effects they produced within me. 
The scene of these wonders was within, in my 
soul ; and their impressions, ten thousand 
times more swift than thought, ten thousand 
times deeper than reflection, had not only 
shaken my soul to its foundation, but had, as 
it were, turned it round, and given it another 
direction, towards another end, and in the 
power of a new life. 

I know I am expressing my meaning very 
badly: but can you expect, monsieur, that I 
should be able to measure with narrow and 
dry speech those emotions which my heart 
itself could with difficulty contain? 

But however inexact and imperfect these 
my words may be, the simple fact of the case 
is, that I found myself in some sort like a 
bare and naked being ; my soul was a tabula 
rasa. . . . The world had no longer any exist- 
ence for me ; my prejudices against Chris- 
tianity were no more ; the instincts and pre- 



120 THE CONVERSION OF 

possessions of my childhood were gone, and 
had left no trace ; the love of my God had so 
entirely ejected and replaced every other 
love, that my betrothed herself appeared to 
me in quite another light : I loved her as one 
might love any object which God held within 
His outstretched hands, as a precious gift 
which yet more endears the giver. 

I repeat that I implored my confessor, Fa- 
ther Villefort, and M. de Bussieres to observe 
an inviolable secrecy in regard of what had 
happened to me. My earnest wish was to 
bury myself in a Trappist monastery, and 
occupy myself exclusively with the things of 
eternity; And, besides, I confess I thought 
that my family and my friends would deem 
me crazed — that they would turn me into 
ridicule ; and that it was better for me in 
every way to escape entirely from the world 
— from its opinions and its judgments. 

However, my ecclesiastical superiors 
showed me that this ridicule, reproach, and 
false judgments were but a part of that 
chalice which is put to the lips of every real 
Christian ; they urged me not to decline this 
chalice, and told me how Jesus Christ had 
predicted to His disciples, sufferings, tor- 
ments, and anguish. These solemn and preg- 
nant word were, so far from discouraging me, 
that they increased my interior joy ; I felt my- 
self ready and prepared for every thing, and 
I eagerly craved baptism. They wished to 



MARIE-ALPHONSE RATISBONNE. 121 

interpose some delay : " but," I exclaimed, 
" those Jews who heard the preaching of the 
Apostles were baptised immediately, and you 
wish to put me off, after I have heard the 
Queen of Apostles ! " My deep emotion, my 
vehement desire, my repeated supplications 
touched the hearts of these holy men ; and I 
was consoled by the blessed promise of an 
early baptism. 

I could scarcely await the day fixed upon 
for the fulfilment of this promise, so foul and 
deformed I felt myself before God ; and yet, 
what kindness, what love was lavished on me 
during those days of my .preparation ! I was 
admitted into the house of the Jesuits, to 
make a retreat under Father Villefort's direc- 
tion ; and he fed and gladdened my soul with 
the most delightful and soothing utterances 
of the Divine Word. That man of God can 
hardly be called a man ; he is rather all heart, 
— a personification of heavenly charity. But 
no sooner were my eyes opened, than I saw 
around me many, many men of similar stamp, 
of whose existence the world knows nothing. 
What gentle kindness, what delicacy, what 
gracefulness, have I found in my intercourse 
with these Christians indeed ! During my re- 
treat, the venerable superior of the Jesuits 
visited me every evening, and poured the 
fragrant balm of heaven into my soul. He 
spoke to me but a few words; but they were 
words which expanded and grew as I listened 
11 



122 THE CONVERSION OF 

to them, and filled me with joy and light 
and life. 

That priest, so humble, and yet so power- 
ful, had no need to speak to me ; it was 
enough to see him : the remembrance of his 
features is even now enough to place me in 
the presence of God, and to make my whole 
soul glow with living gratitude. 1 cannot 
find words to express all my gratitude ; I 
should need a thousand tongues to tell the 
love I feel for these men of God, — for M. 
Theodore de Bussieres, that minister and fore- 
runner of Mary — for the family of the Lafer- 
ronnays, whom I regard with a veneration 
and an affection above all words. 

At length the 31st of January dawned 
upon me, and I found myself surrounded with 
an atmosphere of tenderness and sympathy. 
How gladly would I know each one of those 
pious souls, that I might express my fervent 
gratitude ! May they all ever pray for me, 
even as I pray for them ! 

O Rome, what grace and blessing have I 
found in thy sacred bosom ! The Mother of 
my Lord and Saviour had arranged all that 
concerned me ; she had brought a French 
priest to address me in my mother-tongue at 
the solemn moment of my baptism, — 1 mean 
M. Dupanloup, whose memory is linked indis- 
solubly to that of the most profound emotions 
of my life. Happy they whose privilege it 
was to listen to him ; for the echoes of that 



MAEIE-ALPHONSE KATISBONNE. 123 

mighty address which the press has repeated 
can give no idea of what it really was. I 
felt that he too was inspired by her of whom 
he was speaking. 

I will not relate the circumstances of my 
baptism, my confirmation, and my first com- 
munion, — suffice it to say, that I received all 
these ineffable graces in that one day at the 
hands of his Eminence Cardinal Patiizi vicar 
of his Holiness. 

I should weary you, were I to attempt to 
tell you of all my impressions, — of all that I 
have seen and heard and felt. ... if I were 
to make mention of the brotherly charity 
which has been so profusely lavished on me. 
I will mention only the very distinguished 
Cardinal Mezzofanti ; . . . . the Lord has en- 
dowed this illustrious person with the gift of 
tongues, in reward of a heart which makes 
itself every thing to every one. 

One last great consolation was in reserve 
for me. You remember how earnestly I 
wished to see the Holy Father ; indeed this 
desire, or this curiosity, had kept me at 
Home longer than I intended. Little did I 
imagine under what circumstances my wish 
was to be gratified. It was as a new-born 
child of the Church that I was presented to the 
Father of all the faithful. From the moment 
of my baptism I had felt for the Sovereign 
Pontiff the reverent love of a son ; and I was 
delighted when it was told me that I was to 



124 THE CONVERSION OF 

be introduced into his presence by the rever- 
end General of the Jesuits. Yet I trembled 
at the anticipation, for I had never mingled 
with great people ; and the earth's greatest 
men sunk into insignificance in presence of 
this true greatness. I confess that all the 
royalties of earth seemed to me concentrated 
upon the head of him who wields on earth the 
powers of the world to come ; upon that 
pontiff who succeeds in an unbroken line, to 
the keys of St. Peter, and to the high-priest- 
hood of Aaron, — that representative of Jesus 
Christ himself, whose unshaken throne he fills. 

Never shall I forget my awe and the beat- 
ings of my heart as I entered the Vatican, 
and passed through the vast courts, the im- 
posing halls, which led to the sanctuary of 
the Pontiff. But all my anxiety was dis- 
pelled, to make room for surprise and wonder, 
when I saw him himself, so simple, so humble, 
so paternal. He was not a monarch, but a 
father, whose extreme kindness treated me as 
a beloved son. 

My God ! and will it be thus at that last 
day, when I shall appear before Thee, to give 
account of all the graces I have received? 
We tremble at thought of the majesty of 
God, and we fear His justice ; but when His 
mercy shall be made known, our hopes and 
trust will revive, and with them a love and a 
gratitude without bounds. 

Gratitude ? yes, gratitude is henceforward 



MARIE-ALPHONSE EATISBONNE. 



125 



my law and my life. Never can I adequately 
express it in words ; but I will endeavour to 
condense and suggest it by my actions. 

The letters I have received from my 
family set me free from every engagement ; 
and I offer my liberty to God, for all my life, 
to be employed in the service of the Church 
and of my brethren, under the protection 
of Mary. . . . 




ir 



126 THE LATTER YEARS OF 



THE LATTER YEARS 

OF 

M. LE COMTE DE LAFERKOimAYS. 



We feel it a duty to append to the narrative 
of this wonderful conversion two letters writ-, 
ten to the Union Catholique, containing a 
brief account of the latter years of the Count 
de Laferronnays, whose name is so closely 
connected with that of M. Ratisbonne. 

JRome, 19th January, 1842. 

As you go along the Yia Sacra, amongst 
the monuments which surround the ancient 
Forum with their picturesque ruins, you will 
notice that the temple of the twin-founders of 
Koine has suffered less than the rest from the 
ravages of time, and of the barbarian invad- 
ers of Rome. Christianity consecrated it, and 
so preserved its ruins. It was restored by a 
Pope in the sixth century; and became a 
church under the invocation of St. Cosmas and 
St. Dainian — two brothers also, two Christian 
brothers, united during life by their mutual 
love, hi death by martyrdom, in eternity by 
a common glory. 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFEEEONNAYS. 127 

I love this church, as a monument of the 
earlier triumphs of the faith over paganism. 
Yesterday the Blessed Sacrament was exposed 
in it, and I went to visit it. My mind was 
full of the memory of M. de Laferronnays ; 
and I was thinking that, hut a year ago, he 
was kneeling near me in that church, praying 
at the tomb of the two martyrs, in presence 
of the Blessed Sacrament. I pictured him to 
myself as I had seen him, kneeling at the ba- 
lustrade of the sanctuary, in an attitude of 
deep recollection, with his hands clasped, and 
his features composed into an angelic fer- 
vour. I read over again, with deep feeling, 
a prayer of reparation composed by him and 
written with his own hand, which he had let 

fall from his book as he was going away 

His death allows me to publish this touching 
prayer ; and I think you will be glad to see 
some extracts from it. Surely it. is for the 
glory of God ; and it reveals to us the gran- 
deur of his own soul and the fervour of his 
true repentance : 

" O mysterious provision of a love surpass- 
ing knowledge, it is to Thee I owe my rescue 
from despair ; Thou alone couldst, and Thou 
didst raise my soul out of the deadly despon- 
dency into which it was cast by the appalling 
and ever-present memory of my numberless 

and heinous sins I may show myself 

to the world as a living proof of Thine inex- 
haustible and most tender pity. I confess 



128 THE LATTER YEARS OF 

that, during the frightful madness to which 1 
willingly abandoned myself for so many years, 
I have exceeded the extremest limits of ingra- 
titude. From my childhood Thou hadst made 
me feel Thy protection, in placing me under 
the shield and direction of the tenderest and 
most pious of mothers, until the age when I 
was first called and admitted to Thy holy ta- 
ble. And still later, when my passions began 
to lay on me their degrading yoke, Thou, O 
my God, didst not cease to call 'me to Thyself. 
Often, amidst my wanderings, Thy voice 
reached my heart's depth in spite of all my 
resistance, and there uttered its severe coun- 
sels, its salutary threatenings ; but, alas, Thy 
paternal admonitions did not lead me to re- 
pentance ; they occasioned only transitory 
uneasiness, which I shook off by plunging yet 
deeper into sin. Later still, when Thou didst 
allow my lot to be united to that of the most 
excellent of women, Thou didst surround me 
with patterns and guides, who all pointed out 
to me the way of return unto Thee by walking 
in it themselves so faithfully. It is Thou, 
God of goodness, who hast constantly and 
strangely preserved me during all the vicissi- 
tudes of my public life ! In those days of re- 
volution and wild folly, my sullied soul could 
have appeared before the tribunal of Thy jus- 
tice only to hear the sentence of its everlast- 
ing condemnation. Thou didst allow death 
to threaten, but not to strike, my guilty head ; 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFERRONNAYS. 129 

Thou didst wait still for nry love ! And these 
are but the least of the graces Thou hast be- 
stowed on me ; and how have I recompensed 

them ! For more than half a century I 

have wilfully closed my eyes, that I might 
not see, and stopped my ears, that I might 
not hear. I sacriticed to tiie devil my rest, my 
life, my conscience, my soul, my salvation. 
Regardless of thy goodness, O my God, and 
putting away the Hand that was stretched 
out to save me, I took pleasure in accumulat- 
ing sin upon sin, outrage upon outrage, as 
though I were eagerly bent on my own de- 
struction. My iniquities towered like a great 
mountain up to the throne of Thy justice, and 

braved and provoked Thy vengeance 

O my God, never, never was any child of 
Thine so ungrateful, so guilty as I then was 
in Thy sight. And when at length, sated and 
palled with the poisoned pleasures of the 
world, exhausted by weariness and disgust, the 
snows of old age brought their warnings of 
death, — when serious thoughts and an awak- 
ening sorrow shook my soul, — then, horrified, 
at myself, I thought my hour of forgiveness 
was past, that my tardy and insufficient re- 
morse could no more disarm Thine anger: 
and I added to all my other sins this greatest 
sin— I doubted Thy mercy. But Thou didst 
send to my aid a guide, a comforter, w r ho sus- 
tained my courage, and led me to Thy feet. 



130 THE LATTER YEARS OF 

and taught me to know Thee better, to im- 
plore Thy forgiveness and to hope." 

Do not these pages, marked as they are 
by the tears of M. de Laferronnays, seem 
as though they were taken from that book 
in which St. Augustine, touched by God's 
grace, has treasured up the confession of 
his long wanderings, and the bitter expres- 
sion of his regrets? 

In one of his letters he gives an account 
of his conversion. TV r e give it in his own 
words; for who would presume to substi- 
tute a narrative for these touching effusions 
of a penitent soul at the foot of the cross? 

"The reflections I have had time enough 
to make during my long and lonely journey, 
have at length borne some fruit. When I 
reached Paris, I was convinced, and my 
mind was made up ; my decision and my 
conviction are not the result of enthusiasm 
or of precipitation. Nor is it the brilliance of 
any light that might dazzle me that has 
opened my eyes : my soul has not been com- 
pelled to put itself on the defensive against 
the charm of a persuasive elocpience ; what- 
ever living convictions I have ever had 
spring from within me. I have yielded only 
after long and earnest resistance; the old 
man has struggled vigorously — the conflict 
has been long and desperate. But as I re- 
traced my eight-and-nfty years, and exam- 
ined calmly the long succession of days 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFERRONNAYS. 131 

which were employed in sin ; as I thought of 
the evil example I had given to others, and the 
scandal of which I have so often been the occa- 
sion ; as I reflected that amongst this countless 
multitude of actions there was not one that 
was good, — I was horrified at myself, and con- 
ceived such a detestation of myself, that 
despair had well-nigh seized my heart, to 
the exclusion of true repentance. I passed 
several days of my journey in a state of 
violent and painful emotion. Then, all on 
a sudden, I know not how or why, I felt 
myself calm and almost happy, as though 
some gentle and soothing influence had sunk 
down into my soul. It was hope. I remem- 
bered that hope was not only permitted, but 
commanded as a duty, and that forgiveness 
was promised to the penitent sinner. I 
blessed and praised God for having awak- 
ened my conscience, and for soothing my 
remorse by hope and faith. And in this 
state of mind I reached Paris. I felt now 
that I have no more to dread human re- 
spect, no more false shame to overcome. 
One of my first visits was paid to your 
friend in the Rue de Grenelle, to whom I 
gave your letter. I had a long interview 
with him. I was anxious that the man 
should know the man before the judge heard 
the tale of the culprit. I told him all the 
story of my sinful life; and I assure you I 
did it sincere!}', and without any conscious 



132 THE LATTER TEARS OF 

desire to exculpate myself. I felt a kind of 
comfort and of ease in thus giving him my 
confidence, even without imposing on him 
any obligation of secrecy ; it seemed to me 
a fitting and useful penance. After these con- 
fessions made to the man, it was neither pain- 
ful nor difficult to me to repeat them at the 
feet of the judge who has received the noble 
mission, the consoling power, to pardon and 
to absolve. My habitual vanity made a faint 
resistance, but a better feeling vanquished it; 
and I have a good hope that God, who reads 
all hearts, saw my sincere repentance, and 
that His infinite mercy has ratified the sen- 
tence of His minister. And now ten days 
have passed. I feel with delight and with 
gratitude that my resolutions are stronger day 
by day. My reason, subjugated by grace, 
humbly accepts the teaching of faith; my un- 
derstanding no longer loses itself in vain and 
fruitless analyses of mysteries beyond its 
range; I believe in all simplicity, and I find 
it a blessing and a boon to be able to believe 
that which commands nothing but what is 
good, and promises nothing but happiness." 
This was a great and solemn crisis in the 
life of Count de Laferronnays. Having once 
resolved, he never wavered, but steadily per- 
severed. Nothing could throw him back, or 
quell his courage. He helieved, and from 
that moment his whole life was raised up to 
the high level of his faith. The terrors of 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFEEliONN XY8. 133 

human respect, which are generally so mighty 
ai public men. never shook his noble heart. 
It was so high a blessedness, so great an 
honour, as he said, to possess the Catholic 
faith, "that he could not but walk manfully 
erect in its divine light. While he was as 
humble and simple as a child in all his prac- 
tices of devotion, his soul grasped and held 
with a generous fervour the loftiest inspira- 
tions of Christianity. He felt and realised all 
its strong resolves, all its tender yet energetic 
emotions, its meek compassion, its sublime 
self-devotedness, its high thoughts, its far- 
reaching views, its rarest' and choicest sug- 
gestions. Certainly his was a grand and a 
noble soul; and religion, in pervading him 
with its mighty life, had still further raised 
and ennobled him. 

I do not affect, however, to pronounce his 
eulogy ; I wish you simply to see him as he 
really was. Here is an extract from a letter 
written in reference to a friend who had lost 
his only child, a tenderly-beloved daughter : 

" What a wretched return home ! What 

a moment was their arrival at L without 

her! What a void around them, within 
them; and what a despoiled and desolate life 
is theirs ! All these thoughts oppress the 
heart and weary the mind, and lay him who 
has the blessedness of believing prostrate at 
the foot of the cross. What can we ask or 
expect of man in these great crises of the soul? 
12 



134: THE LATTER YEAES OF 

How can the most quick and tender sym- 
pathy reach a grief so poignant? No, my 
dear friend, the deepest affection is powerless 
here ; it can find no words to heal a wound 
like this. Religion alone, and unfailingly, 
suggests the words which the smitten heart 
craves to hear; it alone has the right and the 
power to take from our tears their excess of 
bitterness ; it alone dares speak of hope in 
presence of despair ; it alone can tell of a 
compensating future to those who have no 
longer either past or present. Religion alone 
has the sublime power to raise from the dust 
the stricken soul, by speaking of the certainty 
of the eternal reunion of those whom death's 
fell stroke has far awhile sundered. O, how 
I pity those who surfer, and yet are so miser- 
able as to feel any doubt on these grand and 
comforting truths ! Whenever a fresh grief 
assails the heart, how sad not to know where 
to look for succour ; to be obliged to wrestle 
with anguish and with despair alone. The 
soul of the Christian, on the contrary, finds 
ever a sure refuge at the foot of the cross ; 
there it pours forth its tears, and the wail of its 
grief: thence it draws the strength and the cou- 
rage of resignation, which is simply impos- 
sible without the faith which gives hope. . . ." 
The same grace which had led him to the 
true source of consolation, revealed to him 
also the value and worth in the eyes of God 
of those souls which sin has degraded, and 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFEKRONNAYS. 135 

which the Christian faith can restore, while 
the world crushes them with its scorn. What 
striking words are these, in reference to a 
distinguished person, who was drawing near 
to the close of a life of most shameful disorder : 
i; That head once so high, so insolent, — 
now bowed down to the grave ; that counte- 
nance, so witty, so merry, so boldly bad in 
its expression, — now so gloomy, so besotted, 
and all its fire extinguished ! All this slow 
and humiliating decomposition of a form and 
a constitution which was the matter of so 
much pride, the instrument and incentive of 
such daring abuses ! What lessons are these ! 
Well, my friend, this decrepitude, this moral 
death, this loathsome close of a scandalous 
life disgusts the world ; it flees in horror, or 
contempt, or pity. Ijut God is there still. 
He judges not as men judge ; with one word, 
with one look, He can raise again that de- 
graded soul, and renew and sanctify it. And 
he, whom we look upon with so much dis- 
dain, with a pity so insulting — could he but 
once raise his heart and his eyes to heaven — 
this man, so worn out by sin, has perhaps his 
prepared place on high ! Yet a few days of 
suifering and of humiliation, and it may be 
he will look down on us with pity and com- 
passion ! Our sublime religion teaches us 
thus much ; and these people, forsooth, tell 
you that it is mere foolery ! They kill you, 
they wither and waste you, and then give 



136 THE LATTER YEARS OF 

yon up to annihilation ; and they call this 
philosophy, the love of wisdom ! " 

The ambition of M. de Laferronnays had 
never been tempted by the glitter of great- 
ness, nor by the desire of playing an impor- 
tant part in those councils on which hung 
suspended the destiny of France and of all 
Europe. He wrote thus, on the very clay of 
his nomination to the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs : 

" My friend, I am very wretched and 
very unfortunate. In spite of all my resolu- 
tions, I have accepted this dreaded office. 
I might, perhaps, have resisted the wishes of 
the king ; but I have yielded to his sadness, 
to his goodness ; and here I am, chained to 
the oar. You will read my sentence this 
morning in the Moniteur / and you will be 
able to "say to yourself that, even in my new 
position, coveted as it is by so many, France 
does not contain a more pitiable and unfortu- 
nate creature than I am. It is a singular 
thing, this destiny, — and I can make nothing 
of mine ; for it drives me always in the direc- 
tion I am anxious to avoid. But it has never 
behaved so badly, never played me such a 
trick as this. If ever 'you happen to hear 
that I am ambitious, that I love what men 
call honours, and the whirl and bustle of busi- 
ness, and the importance of a great place, or 
any of those great human absurdities in virtue 
of which men worry one another, and over- 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFEERONNAYS. 137 

turn empires, pray make haste and tell them 
it is all false." • 

But it was from a graver and loftier point 
of view that he looked down upon these 
human absurdities after his conversion. He 
was raised above them by all the height of 
tlr.it eternity which was his habitual thought. 

" When it is at the close of fifty years of life 
that these grand thoughts of death and its 
results lay hold on one, do you think it well 
to try to distract one's mind, and that one is 
w T rong in not feeling disposed to make the at- 
tempt ? . Will you deem me very absurd in 
desiring that nothing may ever lessen the 
influence of these thoughts upon me, — 
thoughts which are most mighty and influen- 
tial in silence and in solitude? Iso, my 
friend, I am very sure that you understand 
me ; and that if any imperious duty com- 
pelled me to give it my feeble remnant of 
strength, you would be able to pity me, and 
to appreciate the immense sacrifice which it 
would be to me at my age, and with such a 
terrible past. Every moment is of infinite 
value ; one fears every thing that might di- 
vert or alter the employment of these precious 
moments. I have lust so much time, that 
avary thing which stops me on my way, or 
throws me back, may expose me to the risk 
of being surprised before I reach my goal. 
Perhaps I am too singular in all this ; the 
Doliticians of your salons, and your editors 
12* 



138 THE LATTER YEARS OF 

of journals, don't think of these things ; and 
in urging me as ttfey do, they care very little 
where I should fall at the last. But it is of 
great importance to me. And so they may 
rest assured that, unless I feel convinced that 
it is the will of God concerning me, no con- 
siderations will induce me to yield." 

Most of the admirable letters were written 
from Rome. It was at Rome, that pure 
source of the faith, that this noble soul had 
drunk in the copious dews of heaven, and 
struck its roots so deep in so short a time; it 
was in the genial warmth of that Catholic 
atmosphere that it had opened its loveliest 
flowers, and diffused its most fragrant per- 
fumes. And it was on that hallowed soil, 
which he had found so propitious to him, that 
the venerable tree fell, almost pressed to 
earth by the weight of its fruit, — its tender 
charity, its sincere and unaffected piety, its 
lowly repentance, and all the other graces of 
which his vigorous old age, renewed by faith, 
had been so fruitful. And the sweet odour 
of his sanctity abides in the Church of Rome, 
as an added glory and adornment ; in the 
memory of all his friends, as a powerful 
charm which binds them or draws them to 
Christianity ; and in the very hearts he has 
bruised so sore, as a balm of heaven to their 
w^ounds, as a manifest pledge of eternal 
life. 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFERRONNAYS. 139 



SECOND LETTER. 

Rome, 2M January, 1842. 

1 had gathered the details enclosed here- 
with a few days after the death of M. de La- 
ferronnays. By some unhappy inadvertence, 
the letter, which I thought was on its way to 
you, was left in my desk. I still forward it, 
notwithstanding the delay which I deplore; 
the memory of if. de Laferronnays cannot be 
so soon effaced in France, even in these lively 
times when an event can scarcely preserve a 

past of'twenty-four hours 

Alas, alas, another grievous loss, a loss 
quite unexpected too ! The day before yester- 
day, at this very hour, my old and dear friend, 
Count de Laferronnays, was with me to intro- 
duce a young painter whose genius and piety 
had inspired him with a lively interest. 
"When I reproached him for being late, he 
said : " I could not come sooner ; I had an 
important letter to write, and it was indis- 
pensable that it should go off to-day. ..." 
He little thought, nor did I, how indispensable 
it was that he should avail himself of that 
courier. I left him to pay some visits, with- 
out bidding him adieu even ; and I was never 
to see him again alive He accom- 
panied my children, who were going out with 
his daughter, and his son-in law, the Count 
de Meun ; they went together to St. John 



140 THE LATTER YEARS OF 

Lateran, where he prayed for a considerable 
time before the Blessed Sacrament, as was 
his wont. He complained a little of a pain in 
the chest, which came on at intervals, and was 
so sharp and sudden that it prevented his 
walking; but in all other respects he was as 
cheerful and lively as usual. My children 
met him again at Benediction, in the chapel 
at the Perpetual Adoration, on the Quirinal. 

There was on that evening a brilliant y&0 
at the Austrian Embassy. Madame de La- 
ferronnays was to take her daughters there ; 
and while they were dressing, M. de Lafer- 
ronnays amused himself by playing with his 
grandchild. It was between half-past eight 
and nine ; he complained still of his pain ; but 
as it was habitual, they were sorry for it, but 
felt no serious anxiety. They attributed it to 
the effect of a brasero they had put into the 
room to warm it, and the excessive heat of 
which had drawn the blood to his chest. But, 
however that may have been, they sent for 
the physician. Madame de Laferronnays 
wrote a few words to the Abbe Gerbet ; but 
his state occasioned so little alarm, that M. de 
Meun expressed to his sister-in-law his regret 
at Madame de Laferronnays' tendency to 
exaggerate her husband's ailments. The letter 
to the Abbe Gerbet w r as not sent immediately. 
When the physician arrived, he advised bleed- 
ing, and a surgeon was sent for. But the pain 
became easier ; they thought the crisis past, 



M. LE COMTE "DE LA.FERRONNAYS. 14:1 

and stopped the bleeding. However, the re- 
turn of the pain made them send again for the 
surgeon, who made two fruitless attempts to 
bleed him again. He now suffered most acute- 
ly, and cries of anguish escaped him in spite 
of his self-control. During this time, his wife 
— his angelic wife — was in a state of keen dis- 
tress ; going and coming, trying to avoid hear- 
ing his moans ; when a few words disclosed 
to her the imminence of the danger. She sat 
down by the bed on which he had just been 
laid, took his hand in hers, and did not leave 
him again. She sat in perfect calmness, full 
of gentleness and resignation. Meanwhile the 
Abbe' Gerbet arrived, approached the bed, 
and gave him his blessing ; and then, at some 
questions addressed to him, the beloved pa- 
tient replied with a surprising burst of fervour : 
" Yes, yes ; oh, yes, I do repent of all my sins. 
Oh, yes, I do love God with all my soul ! " 
And taking the cruciiix, he pressed it eagerly 
to his lips, and repeated several times this 
simple invocation : " My God, have mercy on 
me! Holy Virgin, pray for me; come to my 
aid ! " He had enjoyed the privilege of com- 
municating the day before. In this extreme 
danger his confessor gave him absolution ; he 
received it with profound repentance, and his 
eyes were blinded with tears of sorrow and of 
gratitude. Then his face regained its usual 
serenity, and betokened the calmness, the 
divine peace, the heavenly joy of his soul. 



142 THE LATTER TEARS OF 

" How happy I feel now ! " said he, with fail- 
ing voice, but with a smile of absolute confi- 
dence and hope ; " how happy I feel now ! " 
But soon his breathing became more difficult : 
" Adieu," said lie to his beloved wife, taking 
her hand in his, " adieu, my dear children !". . . 
and in a few moments his soul, so pure, so 
noble, so truly Christian, appeared before 
God ; while his young daughters were kneel- 
ing beside his bed in their gay festival dresses. 
It was a heart-rending scene. It was now 
only half-past ten o'clock. What an unex- 
pected bereavement ! what a thunder-stroke ! 
But this sudden death, which snapped in two 
hours bonds so strong and so sweet, came not 
unlooked-for by him whom it smote. For many 
years he had been awaiting his summons, and 
prepared himself every day for death, as 
though each day were certainly his last. On 
that very day he had said to his wife, on his 
return home : " I have been to Sta. Maria Mag- 
giore. I knelt down, and implored the Ma- 
donna ; and I said to God : Behold me, O 
Lord, I am ready : take me if Thou wiliest to 
have me ; but if Thou permittest me to remain 
yet longer on earth, my life shall be conse- 
crated to thy glory alone ! " The thought of 
death had become habitual to him, yet it did 
not ruffle the deep calmness of his heart, or 
affect the simple gentle gaiety of his conver- 
sation ; a profound distaste for pleasures and 
honours had detached him from those illusions 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFEKRONNAYS. 143 

of which lie had felt all the nothingness, and 
the energy of his faith disclosed to him, 
beyond the grave, the only hopes which could 
fill and content his magnificent soul. Home, 
with the solemn associations of its ruins, deep- 
ened the tone of those grave and holy 
thoughts which were most congenial to him. 
I have before me a letter which he wrote 
nearly a year ago ; a few extracts from it will 
reveal to you his habitual state of mind : 

" I leave Rome with regret ; and but for 
the important matters which summon me to 
France, I should certainly have prolonged my 
stay. I suppose it is because I see it now 
with other eyes, and feel more deeply all its 
significance. For him who is blessed with 
faith, for him who has ever held lonely con- 
verse with himself in that city of silence and 
of faith, Rome is the city to live and to die 
in. I admire as much as any one these co- 
lossal ruins, which give one so grand an idea 
of what ancient Rome must have been, and of 
the wonderful people who raised them. I can 
well understand why the imagination should 
be at once enthralled and excited amidst these 
stately relics; yet it is not the ruins which 
fascinate me, nor the recollections of olden 
time which make me sorry to leave it. It is 
the soil of those theatres moistened with the 
blood of thousands of martyrs, the precious 
remains of those heroes of the faith, which are 



14A THE LATTER YEARS OF 

here preserved and venerated on the very 
spot of their glorious agony ; it is the sacred 
dust of the catacombs, that hallowed ground 
which has witnessed the sufferings and the 
triumphs of the Church, its tribulations 
and its glories; it is that unshaken rock, 
against which the impotent efforts of impiety, 
heresy, and philosophism, have been broken 
and thrown back, age after age, — this throne 
of the poor fisherman, set up on the ruins of 
the throne of the Csesars, the rulers of the 
world ! And all that is here, all around me 
as I w T alk. O my friend, how can one see all 
this, and not believe ? how can one help feel- 
ing at Rome some presentiment of our eternal 
destiny? how can we miss seeing whence our 
souls came, and whither they are going? 
How can people come to Home only to see 
lifeless stones ? Above all, how can they have 
the heart, wjien surrounded by so many wit- 
nesses of God and of His power, of the Ca- 
tholic religion and its truth, — how can they 
stoop to petty criticisms of incidental abuses, 
of the political state of the country, or of the 
peculiarity of certain religious usages and ce- 
remonies — ceremonies and usages of which 
our little minds know neither the meaning 
nor the necessity ? To a Catholic soul Rome 
is simply Catholic Rome ; it is the land of 
Catholic memorials, of Catholic miracles, of 
Catholic hopes. Here one's faith grows 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFERRONNAYS. 14:5 

stronger; here the Catholic raises a corner of 
that veil which shrouds the sublime mysteries 
of our religion ; here the heart of the Catholic 
sees with a clear and distinct intuition the 
vanity and nothingness of the pomps and 
glories of this world, and already breathes the 
calm and genial atmosphere of the unvarying 
eternity. 1 saw Home three times while my 
heart was yet frozen in religious indifference ; 
and being neither an artist nor a poet, I was 
terribly tired, — just as one grows tired of a 
long harangue in an unknown tongue. But 
now I have the faculty which enables me to 
see, to hear, to understand, to feel. My clays 
are all too short, I am so eager to see and to 
know every thing. My soul is filled with 
most delightful emotions — emotions which are 
the more living and exquisite that they are so 
new and fresh to me. May God grant that I 
may once again see Home. . . . Yes, it is at 
Home I would fain live and die. . . ." 

And God heard his prayer. The Count 
de Laferronnays did return to Rome ; he lived 
there amid all the aids and consolations of 
the faith, and he died amidst all its graces 
and benedictions. 

His death occasioned many sorrows and 
many tears. He was so affectionate and so 
gentle, that he was loved by every one. 
C'unctoram amans, cunctis amdbilissimus. 
His body was embalmed, and lay in state 
13 



146 THE LATTER YEARS OF 

three days in the Palazzo Spina. Many pre- 
lates and priests of France made it a point to 
say Mass in that quiet chapel. The venerable 
Father de Geramb passed a whole night in 
prayer beside his bier — last and deepest ex- 
pression of a friendship begun in youthful 
dissipation, sanctified afterwards by that reli- 
gion which had made the one a pattern of 
true piety in the world, and the other a 
model of austerities and of penitence in a 
cloister of La Trappe. Every homage that 
could honour his memory and comfort his 
bereaved family was paid to his remains. 
His own numerous friends, may illustrious for- 
eigners, the ambassadors of France, Austria, 
and Naples, and crowds of noble women, who 
prayed and mourned apart, formed the glo- 
rious procession of his funeral. The sorrow 
of all these sympathising souls was soothed 
by an extraordinary event connected with 
this sudden death. The day after, in that 
very church, and a few steps only from the 
bier prepared for his funeral, M. Alphonse 
Eatisbonne, for whose conversion he had 
breathed his latest prayers, was smitten down 
like St. Paul by a supernatural vision, and 
arose imploring holy baptism, and blessing the 
memory of the illustrious deceased, who had 
prayed for him without knowing him. Thus 
God Himself seemed to authorise us to believe 
the everlasting blessedness- of the soul of our 



M. LE COMTE DE LAFERRONNAYS. 147 

beloved friend ; for while we were here on 
earth offering our tears, our prayers, and the 
precious blood of Jesus Christ for his repose, 
the power of his intercession in heaven waa 
attested in our midst by a miracle! 



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111